Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Whose children are these?

Children live in their own fancy world and dream up their own realities around the world they live in. Many a times, this world is punctured by adults with their desires which are very jarring for the child. In India, the girl child is attacked from even before she is born to the entire period of her life, in many ways, physical or psychological. While we acknowledge, and have laws to protect, the girl child/adult, many a time, these laws are there in paper and never followed up with action.
One of the heinous crimes against children is Child Sexual Abuse. This crime always, almost takes place within families, among friends of the family, people who the child trusts as does the family.

In a story told by a 78 year old lady from an elite background in Bengal, she recalled how, when she was a little girl, their home was frequently visited by her maternal uncle who lived in a town near Kolkata. During this visit, he molested and performed odd acts of sexual nature, forcing himself on the lady, then only a child and made her do things to him, which her child mind could not comprehend but was hugely disturbed to participate in. She did not have words for it at that time, however, at a later stage; she did open her mouth and tell her mother. Her mother refused to believe her and confronted her brother, whereupon, he denied it completely. The matter was put away, as if the lady had lied. When, in later years, she was found to resist her husband’s approaches, which lead him to leave the marriage, and she develop cancer of the uterus, out of the enormous amount of unresolved negative emotions she harboured around sex, it is only as a cancer survivor, speaking up her truth as a means to come to terms with the happenings of her childhood, and rid herself of the guilt and shame she suffered all her life, for no fault of hers, did she find listeners, who were a family of cancer survivors, quite far from her own.

This story is only one among dozens of cases of Child Sexual Abuse that happen on a daily basis, across all sections of society in India. The crime, least acknowledged as one, inside the family is quickly hidden away or covered up. At best the abuser is asked not to visit any more. But what if the abuser is the own father? Where can we send this person? Our imagination may not want to accept this reality, but the fact is, this too is a glaring fact in India and elsewhere in the world.

The abuser never admits to the crime. Nobody goes to law for this. There are as little cases in the Police Stations in India on this issue – who will go? What will happen to the name of the family? What will the family do, if the abuser is the bread winner in the family?

We need laws to protect children, from heinous crimes of this nature, if not in their homes, then it becomes a moral responsibility of schools they go to, to keep a strong eye watching out for children who might be showing signs of stress. Teachers, adults at home and in places where the child visits, like Tuition Classes and wherever, have to be sensitized. Not only that, stricter rules must come in place and where the Public Legal System have to be empowered to visit dysfunctional homes or schools where any child suspected to be violated sexually must be contacted and parents brought under stricter vigilance and punishment. Since Child Sexual Abuse, more than often, happens in the family, there must be means and ways to intervene, even within the family, for this is true, that the family hides the truth.

Older than perhaps the institution of prostitution, Child Sexual Abuse is not a problem that has come up now, or affects only the rich or the people living in the Metros, it is as old as human interaction between a child and pathological adults are concerned.

What are we as a government or law makers doing about it? Why must we as a society take so little cognition of this crime or hide it or just go about saying that it probably is a story told by a child from her own dream world?

If you are someone who has gone through CSA or know of someone who is undergoing one, it is time to raise alarm. You can reach out to # 100 anywhere in India; you do not need the family’s permission to do that.

The question I am leaving you with is: Why must we have so much respect for this institution called family, when, it is unable to protect children?

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