Thursday, February 09, 2006

Male Discrimination in Korea 韓國男性歧視 韓国における男性に対する差別

This is an interesting article on discrimination against men in Korea, a society well known for its confucianistic oppression of women. It appeared in the Chosun Times Newspaper recently.

Could the clown in the current hit movie 'The King and the Clown' sue the King for raping him? Not under Korean law he can't. The penal code limits victims of rape to women.
The Korean Women's Development Institute last week published a report showing that many laws closely related with everyday life are sexually discriminatory. At the request of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the institute carried out a three-month investigation into 17 areas of Korean statutes including the Constitution and concluded that 159 regulations favor, exclude, discriminate against or cause damage to a particular gender for no good reason.
The majority discriminate against women, but a good few disadvantage men. Half of the 159 articles were related to the Hojuje or patriarchal family registry system and are thus automatically amended once that is abolished in 2007 But the articles discriminating against men still remain. KWDI researcher Park Seon-yeong says, In the past, concern about sexual discrimination was focused on protecting women. But as women gain economic power and the viewpoint on equality has changed, we now focus more on the equality of the sexes.
﹣Men as Rape Victims
One of the most obvious laws to point to is Article 297 of the Criminal Code: Those who rape a female by violence or threat shall be sentenced to jail for no less than three years. For men who have been raped, the prosecution can bring charges of assault, and culprits face prison terms of up to 10 years or a fine of up to W15 million (US$15,000), potentially a much lighter penalty.
Prof. Kim Elim of Korea National Open University points out that it is meaningless to stick to the term ※female§ from the article, which was written in 1953, and that violation of an individual's sexual rights can also occur by way of oral or anal sex, while sexual abuse must be viewed as a violation of human rights instead of an issue between man and woman. The suicide of a soldier who suffered sexual abuse in the Army in 2003 shows that such abuse of men in the military or in prisons is on the increase. Last year, the National Human Rights Commission estimated that 15.4 percent of soldiers experienced sexual abuse in the Army.
﹣Beauty vs. Virility
Current law is less concerned with the appearance of men than of women. A regulation related to election laws shows this aspect very well. Women with visible scars are given disability grade 4 while men are given grade 6. Men would have to lose both testicles to be graded 4. Prof. Kim says, This is a trace of the old social values of the 60s that highlight facial appearance for women and reproductive ability for men.§
﹣Why Can't Men Marry at 16?
According to the Article 807 of the Civil Code, men can get engaged or married when they reach the age of 18 while women can marry at 16. The article was added in a 1960 revision based on the presumption that girls mature mentally and physically earlier than boys and that men should at least have a high-school diploma to be able to earn money and take care of a family. But Park So-hyeon, a researcher at the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations, says, Maturity differs between individuals not genders, and since men and women are both responsible for the family, such regulations do not reflect reality.§Park points out that Germany, Russia and the U.S. once set the legal marital age at 18 for men and 16 for women, but as inequality issues were raised, now the legal age is 16 or 18 for both men and women in most states in the U.S.
I thought this article reflected many of my own thoughts on this issue, things like male rape which is not recognised in many countries. In Malaysia, for example, if a male is raped, it comes under the unnatural sex offences and not rape. Similarly if a woman is raped anally or orally in Malaysia, it comes under the unnatural sex offences as well. I think rape laws must be reformed to include anal and oral rape and not be restricted to just vaginal rape given the fact that both occur frequently as well. Further, it is time to recognise that men can be raped and to give men equal protection too. Further, i was really shocked by the statistics provided in the article that about 15.4% of Korean conscripts and personnels experience sexual abuse in the military. That is a surprisingly large number, and if the definition of sexual abuse meant only rape then it is a truly worrying figure. I think rape of men in the military and in prisons by gay men (and maybe even straight men??) must be dealt with properly and the taboo must be broken as i currently think many men who are sexually abused do not speak out out of shame of having being raped by another man or being accused of actually being gay himself. I also have always been dumbfounded by why men and women had different marriage legality ages, i mean why is a girl allowed to marry earlier than a guy?? I think it is pure partriarchal thinking allowing men to marry 'pure virgin' girls and should be abolished. I will also introduce the box office and critically acclaimed Korean gay-themed film 'The King and his Clown' mentioned at the beginning of the article when i get the chance to watch it.

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