Karan Oberoi’s ordeal has been the latest talk of the town. In a twist to the #metoo movement, Karan Oberoi’s situation has given rise to #mentoo movement. A closer analysis of the movements point out the similarities between the two and how essentially, both are aimed at securing justice and equality in the society so that the people can live in harmony. However, it also highlights that while stringent laws for crimes against women are the need of the hour, having the same for men is equally important as they too can be the victims.
The saga of Karan Oberoi and the anonymous woman began on an online dating site. Fast forward to a few months after, Karan Oberoi tried to break of the relationship as the woman was supposedly practicing black magic and according to Oberoi, threatened to inflict harm of his family and was also harassing and stalking him. The woman meanwhile, accused Oberoi of rape as according to her he had indulged in sexual acts with her at the pretext of marriage, a charge Oberoi vehemently denied as according to him, he never promised marriage. The woman also accused him of filming the act and extorting her on the basis of the video. Based on such charges, Oberoi was arrested and sexual harassment being a non-bailable offence, he was imprisoned of a fortnight, before he was granted bail. Meanwhile, the reputation and goodwill of the actor’s name was thoroughly maligned with the entire country spewing disgust and disdain, thus causing him irreparable damage. This took an interesting turn when the woman in question registered another FIR against Karan Oberoi in which she stated to have been attacked by two men of a bike who threatened to throw acid on her if she does not take back the case. The disdain against Karan Oberoi and sympathy for the newest #metoo victim further increased. During the course of investigations it was revealed that the attack had been staged, committed by the relatives of the woman’s lawyers, with the woman’s consent.
In the current situation, two important questions arise, the first, how can Karan Oberoi or some other man in his place deal with the harassment and stalking by a woman; and second, how do men deal with the issue of women falsely accusing the men of crimes wherein the man’s identity is all over the internet and the woman goes unscathed.
Legal respite for male victim
After the Nirbhaya case in 2013, the criminal laws in the country were amended to include stalking and harassment as criminal offences, alongside sexual harassment. For this purpose, Sec 354D was added in the IPC which criminalizes the act of contacting or attempting to contact a woman after clear indications of disinterest. However, the language of the section is such that only a woman can register an FIR in such a case. There is no provision enabling a man to register a criminal complaint against a woman or any other gender, for stalking or harassing him. Same is the case with sexual harassment against men, which has become an increasing problem.
Moreover, Karan Oberoi is also a victim of a false FIR here. In such cases, the victim can initiate legal proceedings using Sec 211 of the IPC. In the present case, the woman has been arrested for filing a false FIR on the attack in herself.
Damage to Repute
The irreparable damage aside, the identity of the woman hasn’t been revealed and is being protected due to Sec 228A of the IPC which states that men who have been accused by a woman for certain crimes are under a legal responsibility to keep her identity hidden. Since the sexual harassment case against Karan Oberoi is still on-going, the woman’s identity has been hidden, even though she is under-going criminal proceedings for purporting false facts.
This situation of Oberoi is highly unjust. The man has lost his reputation and goodwill and his name is being maligned by the public at large. However, the woman, even though she has a proven charge against her, has her repute intact. The idea behind the provision is extremely well thought of, as women in India often do not come ahead with sexual crimes for fear of damaging her repute. However, there is a very well known maxim in law which goes as, “one has to approach the Court with clean hands”. In this case, the court has a confession from the woman’s lawyer stating that she had the information of the attack and voluntarily gave her consent. With this illegality, deriving legal protection to conceal her identity in a subject matter of the same case is extremely unjustified and unfair to Karan Oberoi, charges against whom haven’t even been proved until now.
Sexual Harassment or a woman scorned?
According to the Indian law, if sexual relations with a woman are established after the promise of marriage, such consent ceases to be valid if the promise of a marriage isn’t fulfilled. The allegation against Karan Oberoi is also on the same line. In 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 38,947 rape cases were reported in India in 10,068 cases the women claimed it was rape on the false promise of marriage.
This definitely makes the situation very dicey as in today’s times; pre-marital sex isn’t uncommon at all and in fact is the norm. In these cases, differences often arise between the partners and after they consciously uncouple, women often use the law for personal gains. The law is meant to protect those women whose partners merely promised marriage just so they can engage in sexual activities and after the agenda is accomplished, leave them; in other words, preventing men from ‘using’ women for sex. Whereas, it is often used by those women, who were in voluntary relationships with men and indulged in sexual activities on their own accord, irrespective of the promise for marriage. Moreover, it is also used by women whose relationships ended due to a variety of other reasons arising out of faults and differences in opinion. Courts recently have started ruling in favour of men after examining the facts and intent behind the relation, but, the damage is already done. It is often said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and thus, the provision needs to ensure that those women who are the actual victims are protected and those who are using the law to exact their personal revenge must not gain advantages.
By initiating proceedings for sexual harassment, the women have nothing to lose if it turns out to be false. The women will walk free and their repute will also be protected, courtesy of Sec 228A of the IPC. This is why; false cases of rape are on a rampant rise. According to a report by the Delhi Commission for Women published in 2014, 53% of the rapes reported in Delhi are false. This is extremely disheartening. Till the time the men are able to prove their innocence, the damage has already been done with the tag “rape accused” attached to them for life. No reputed organization wants to hire a person accused of rape and no woman wants to marry someone like that. What is worse, the men accused of rape are treated as “guilty until proven innocent”, which is completely contrary to the Indian jurisprudence. Months, even years are spent in them trying to prove their innocence. Most of the times, it is the parents of the girl who falsely accuse the men of rape. Patriarchal mindset causes them to purport their daughter to be a rape victim rather than a woman voluntarily indulging in sexual activities.
With such rampant false cases, the genuine cases of rape are losing their shock factor. Rape is a horrific unnatural incident which when committed, is the worst of the crimes. By using the term in such common parlance, it is an extreme disrespect to those who actually suffer through the ordeal.
The current Karan Oberoi case has indicated that irrespective of the rape charge being proved or not, men need some increased level of legal protection. The aim should be at bringing a balance in the society, for which the patriarchal mindset needs to accept that men can also be victims. Moreover, the woman in question, using the law to cover her identity when all she has done till now is manipulate and falsify the facts for her own needs and interfere in the due process of law is completely unacceptable. #metoo and #mentoo movements have brought to light the ugly aspects of the society and should be aimed at equality and harmonious relations; not be used to seek personal vendettas.