Today more than half of Indian children face child abuse at least once in their lifetime. The New Delhi rape of ‘Gudiya’ showed that child abuse is rampant across the country. The use of cyberspace and Internet-information systems has further aggravated the issue - children are not just abused, but even subjected to child pornography.
In January 2013, a brutal child rape in New Delhi reignited the critical issue of child abuse that we as Indians have conspicuously shied away from for several years. Five years-old, Gudiya was raped and brutalized by two men, Manoj (19) and Pradeep (21) living in the same building. They not only abused her, but even slashed her throat and left her unconscious in a pool of blood. Recently, an incident in Gurgaon was reported where a 45 year-old father raped his daughter for three years. In a privately run shelter home in Haryana, children and young women were beaten, sent out for sex work, trafficked and abused in horrible ways. Three years ago, we had the Nithari case, where an influential businessman and his servant were involved in child abuse and murdered 11 children, burying them in their courtyard.
Where our society is heading is hard to say and even fathom. I am deeply disturbed and shocked to read countless stories of young girls subjected to abuse by their nearest ones. Despite ubiquitous protests following these incidents, every day we discover even stranger cases of child abuse. We are also yet to discuss the root of this issue. Instead, we discuss violence against women in terms of rape as a property dispute. Even on news channels I hear patriarchal views during debates, where many blame the dressing style of women for ‘encouraging’ rapists to rape them. The Gudiya incident was a straight slap in the face to this chauvinist mindset and made us swallow harsh realities that we have until now knowingly evaded.
Today 53.4 percent of our children face child abuse at least once in their lifetime. These incidents have gone unnoticed for too long due to our negligence. More often than not, these abuses are perpetrated by a family member, a family friend or an uncle. They are kept private and not revealed as it becomes a ‘prestige’ issue for the family of the victim. I am sometimes appalled and ashamed by such hypocrisy. What about punishing the culprit? Why aren’t we bringing them to justice? According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2001 and 2011 there was a three-fold jump in registered child rape cases - from 2,113 in 2001 to 7,112 instances 10 years later. The majority of these incidents are not even recorded in police files.
Child rape incidents have increased by 336 percent since 2001 in India according to a study conducted by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. Our country finds it difficult to talk about sex, let alone sexual abuse. While our movies are full of thigh-slapping oafs dishing out double-entendres, our society’s redress of abuse victims, not to mention police insensitivity, is a travesty. Child sex abuse is a particularly taboo topic - it is not just brushed under the carpet, it is locked away in teak closets and swept under expensive sheets of more homes that you can even imagine. It is this silence that is frighteningly empowering to the culprits.
Recovering and Healing from Incest (RAHI), an NGO that was started by Anuja Gupta - herself a victim of child abuse - carries out extensive research in this field. The following are just a few startling observations:
- 64 percent of victims are abused between the age of 10-18 years
- 32 percent of victims are abused between the age of 2-10 years
- 87 percent of victims are repeatedly abused
- 19 percent of the abused are currently living with at least one of their abusers
Most of these abused children have their mothers at home. The study was even more shocking, as it showed that this rate does not depreciate according to the strata of the society - in fact, it even appreciates. More than 70 percent of the children from upper class families suffer abuse from family members and people whom they trusted.
The solution in my view lies in the fact that we need to advise and educate our children about their sexuality and about how someone can exploit them. Whether it is the dogmatic society structure or the conservative mindset here in India, we generally do not even talk about the necessary details of what type of touching is wrong and where it crosses line with our children. This makes them even more vulnerable as they do not realize when they are being subjected to abuse. Most are so scared they do not even report these incidents to their parents - many out of fear of being outcast for reporting incidents against influential members of their family. On one hand, they are pressured by the abuser and on the other hand, we disbelieve them so much that they plunge into the darkness of depression.
We should not be paranoid and deprive children of the joy of childhood, but we need to make sure we give them the confidence that they have our full faith when they report such incidents. We need to trust them and instill faith and confidence. These are incidents that haunt the victim for a very long time and can shatter their self-confidence. Let us hope that with time , the society changes and we can stand by our children both compassionately and vigilantly in this hour of crisis.
Opinions voiced by Global Minds do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Global Journal.