“Was it because I got my hair coloured?” thought aloud the 19-year-old Delhi boy whose conversation with his California-based friend Arnav Barbaad, sharing his ordeal of being drugged and raped, recently went viral on Facebook.
In a series of conversations with The Quint, Arnav relays selective details of the survivor’s plight, with his permission. Arnav took to social media after his friend confided in him, about being drugged, raped and then assaulted, when he went on a date with another boy he met through Tinder, in the last week of December 2016.
The 19-year-old boy is a research student at one of India’s prestigious institutes in New Delhi. So, when he set out on a date through Tinder, the dating app, with another boy from the same institute, getting raped was the last fear on his mind.
He didn’t tell me that he was raped at first; he just told me he was bullied and assaulted. [...] Only later he broke down saying that he was drugged, taken to some shady place – some room – and he was locked there. He was raped; he was assaulted and just left there. He didn’t name the guy, but he is also from the same, very prestigious institute of India, the top most institute of India.Arnav Barbaad
This reporter asked Arnav whether it was a gang-rape since the survivor mentions the assault he received by “one of the guys.”
[There were] three guys. The date and two accomplices. He was first raped by his date, and then, assaulted by all three. The drug made him disoriented and gave him a sharp headache, making it impossible to counter them physically.Arnav Barbaad
The survivor has no memory of how he reached the room, or when the two accomplices, who he didn’t recognise, joined his date in assaulting him. “He has a serious injury in his back because he was hit. [...] I didn’t post all this. He’s still recovering from his back injury,” said Arnav.
Caught Between Sections 375 and 377
Because he went out on the date willingly, it can be easily proven via text messages or via Facebook messages that he went out willingly. Then, it would be very easy to turn the case back on him. That’s one of the primary problems why he is not pursuing legal action.Arnav Barbaad
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code assumes that only a man can rape a woman and then lays out punishment for the same. All adult male survivors, and also female perpetrators are left out of the scope of this legal recourse, leaving people like this survivor cornered.
Section 377, on the other hand, criminalises anal sex between men and other “unnatural acts”, despite protests by LGBTQI allies.
Ironically, this antique “anti-sodomy” law is also the only recourse for men to report forced “sexual assaults” by male perpetrators, a provision in the law which frustratingly shies away from using the word “rape” and the legal consequences of non-consensual sex.
No Country for Homosexuals
Section 377 is an ideal case of laws reflecting the mindset of the society, with stigma about and discrimination against homosexuals rampant across caste, class, language, and religious lines. Thus, while the survivor can technically seek legal recourse against the alleged perpetrator, the ordeal of another who commented on Arnav’s post is what is most likely to happen:
Finding a loophole in a law is one thing, but fighting a diseased mindset of an entire system of lawmakers, police, community, family and friends, without any parental or legal help is another.
His sister is [also homosexaual] and she came out to his parents a few years ago. Now, she’s settled abroad. [His] family is [not] very accepting of his sister. That’s another point for him to not come out to them, and he doesn’t plan to any time soon. [...] But he’s a very good researcher, so it’s very likely he’ll end up in the US or UK, or with his sister. She just wants him to come out of India, as soon as possible.Arnav Barbaad
On a slightly reassuring note, the survivor did get himself tested, and has clicked pictures of his bruises, if ever he gathers the strength to report the crime and fight the tedious, insulting battle he will have to.
Yes [he got tested], and that was thanks to public response. We were all thinking about STDs, but we never thought about the side-effects of the drug. So, a friend from an NGO [from UCLA] contacted me and told me to get him tested also for the drug. The results came out fine.Arnav Barbaad
But what about his emotional and mental health, seeing as he is left with little choice but to internalise the whole incident quietly?
As for therapy, he’s joined kickboxing classes to vent out his frustrations. He isn’t ready to talk about that night with people. He recently got a date with one of his age-old crushes, in front of whom he also ended up breaking down. He’s attending all his classes in college. He’s totally just gotten down to his research and scriptwriting. That’s one of his escapes.Arnav Barbaad
The survivor is looking to leave the country and “seek asylum” elsewhere, as soon as possible, with an offer for an internship in scriptwriting and an acceptance for a Masters degree in US and Europe, waiting for him.