In a chilling reminder of the atrocities perpetrated on helpless gay men in India, a 23 year old man was brutally raped by two policemen in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in the wee hours of Sunday, 9th Feb, 2014. The incident happened on SG Road near Science City, when the victim was returning to his car to go home after a party.
The two policemen, in their mid-20s, were posted on duty during the Ahmedabad gay pride march held on December 1st, in which the victim had participated. Today as the man was returning to his car, the policemen recognized and accosted him, asking if he had taken part in the march. On his confirmation, the cops demanded to see his license and papers and started hurling abuses at him. The victim protested and tried to get away, but the cops started beating him up with sticks and forced themselves on him, abusing him all the time and remarking ‘jab poori duniya se marwai hai, toh humse bhi marwa le’ (when you have got fucked by the whole world, then get fucked by us too) . The man returned home battered and bruised with multiple wounds on his body. The cops were not drunk and were in full control of their senses.
The victim belongs to a powerful political family of Gujarat, is not open about his sexual orientation to his family and is averse to filing a police complaint due to the attendant publicity that it would involve. He fears that his high-profile family background would cause severe trouble to him during an election year if he decides to report the incident. He broke down to his friends after the incident and has been in a suicidal mood, but is being attended to by friends.
The incident highlights the daily insecurities faced by the LGBT community in India who are harassed by the authorities. Post the Supreme Court order criminalizing homosexuality, a lot of gay men have been going back into the closet and are hesitant to speak about their sexual orientation. Whilst rape cases in India have been highlighted with conviction supposedly being fast-tracked after the Delhi gangrape of 2012, incidents involving gay rape are rarely reported because the victims fear a double ‘stigma’ – that of rape and of having a ‘criminal’ sexual orientation, being forcibly ‘outed’ to the society. Most male victims of rape internalize their suffering and live them through their daily lives, not being able to report the criminals and neither being able to tell their near and dear ones of their suffering. The Supreme Court, in its verdict on the 377 case dwelt primarily on the poor conviction rate and lack of reported cases of harassment as a basis for retaining the section.
This case is a grim reminder of how criminalizing a sexual act, which Section 377 does is in itself a reason for cases not being reported and violent crimes also remaining within the closet. With victims being criminalized forced to keep their trauma and sufferings under wraps, it is the rapists who walk free and roam the streets emboldened. With custodians of law themselves colluding to ravage a man whom they had been sent out to protect, the incident highlights the long and mostly non existent path to justice that the community faces in India.
This post has been updated. An earlier version of the article mentioned the age of the victim as 30yrs