Thursday, March 10, 2005

Is ignorance bliss at cost of child's well being?

Is ignorance bliss at cost of child's well being?
February 14, 2005

A senior teacher from a public school in Ahmedabad narrated this incident last week. An eighth standard student, crying, approached her. Her cousin had been touching her up. She had told her mother. The latest incident happened when her mother was away to attend one of the many marriages. The mother was flabbergasted when the daughter told her. But her reaction was simply this: "Beta, tari kaik samjan pher thai hashe (maybe you misunderstood)." The teacher said she called the mother and told about the young girl's frustration. The mother listened quietly but once they got home she scolded the daughter for going and telling it to the teacher.

The girl has lost interest in her studies. She thinks it is her fault that her college going cousin has been mixing up affection and lust. She is a victim but she feels guilty and responsible for whatever is happening.

Another boy tells his mother that their maharaj (cook), who has been serving them since his birth, touches him oddly. Mother's sermon followed a joke. You are a boy and you are 14. You have nothing to lose! Son, you are growing up! Then she said, "Beta aapne dhyan rakhvanu, aava manso badhe hoy. (Son, we have to take care, such people are everywhere around).

The profiles of such mother go something like this: Normal rich Gujarati housewives. Shopping and watching serials takes up most of their day. The rest of the time, they attempt to play a perfect daughter-in-law, a perfect wife and a perfect mother. Their children's friends love her because they are "fashionable and broadminded" mothers.

Well, these mothers know the latest hairstyle of Hritik Roshan. They know Ansh of Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, never mind that she does not know William Shakespeare. She knows how depressed Parvati looks these days in Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, she knows the story line of Yeh Meri Life Hai and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi, and every week she plays a perfect host to a family party. She has a personal puja room at home. She knows all the names of the characters in various serials, of course she does not have any idea about the guy her daughter has a crush on.

Statistics, in such cases, don't help. But still it is shocking to know that three girls are raped every day in India and these girls are below 12 years of age. And in 82 per cent of the cases, the rapist is acquainted to the family.

Rape is an extremity, but what about molestation and touching up? We are such hypocrites. In Gujarat, we abhor sex education in schools but we cover up cases of molestation and "touching up".

In over 98 per cent of the cases, child abuse is never reported. Okay, we agree that our system of justice is so lethargic, and depressing, that we wouldn't want our young children to be exposed to it. But, isn't it necessary for us to educate our own children about the pitfalls? When it comes to boys, hypocrisy is even worse.

Child sexual abuse could mean a simple thing like petting a kid. The girl or boy knows that what is happening is wrong. A 12-year-old girl knows that it is not normal for her cousin to touch her this way but when she is told by her own family that it is her fault and she that should stay away from such things, aren't we encouraging an unhealthy growth of a male child who learns that abusing may be condoned and is perhaps normal. Most of the times, children and even teenagers, despite all the hoopla, are innocent to know the difference between affection and abuse.

Most Gujaratis consider themselves to be progressive. But sometimes this progressiveness is unjustified. Like a cousin's touching up can never be justified. Why do we do cover up operations when such incidents take place instead of taking the right course of action? Why don't we acknowledge that it is important to impart sex education? In some cases, a girl does not even know that what her cousin is doing amounts to molestation. In some cases, a teenager might even enjoy it.

A young 14-year-old boy touched up by a neighbourhood aunt. A 15-year-old girl finding her uncle's hugs uncomfortable and feeling guilty about it. A 10year-old just feels nothing. Scenes could be different. Molestation could not take more than two minutes. But it leaves behind a lifetime of bitterness, guilt and lack of dignity and self-esteem.

The World Health Organisation ranks India as a country, which probably has the highest rate of, reported and unreported child sexual abuse. After Gujarat riots, any international statistics or comments are viewed with skepticism, and as an international conspiracy. So looking homewards, Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences has revealed that 58 of the 150 girls interviewed had been raped before they were 10 years old. Sakshi, of Delhi, found that 63 per cent of high school girls had been molested before they turned 15. But all these victims are silent. They suffer from guilt, bitterness, lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Shouldn't we listen to their silence? " For all those who think you have anything tangy or tender to share, whether it's the work shirking bureaucrat, an office stationary lover secretary, a workaholic or a hardly working minister and in short anything that you feel is interesting, controversial, contriving or simply cool, write in to us at Of course, confidentiality is our credo.

Source : The Asian Age


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sliceapie said...

this article on sexual abuse in india,gujurat is very intriguing. i live in the u.s and am gujurati and also a victim of sexual abuse for a long period of time. i'm older now and have fought in the court system to try and get justice, but in my eyes failed. the feeling never goes away.
anyways living in the u.s., just among my friends about 80% of them have been abused. i'd like to do something about educating our young indian boys and girls. any suggestions on how to start out?

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shoshana87 said...

I did a search to find this info because over the past couple of years I have become friends with some of my co-workers in India. I know there are a lot of cultural differences & did not feel comfortable asking such questions. But, being the victim of child molestation, I wanted to know if the US was the only country that had such horrible crimes. I found it sad to discover that a country so rich in history & culture could continue to allow their children to be so abused. Thank you for allowing me a small glimpse into the lives of those like me. May your words reach those in your country to help stop the chain of abuse from continuing to ruin future generations.