Manjadikuru, the Malayalam movie that opened to rave reviews this week, is the story of a fourteen-year-old girl abused in a Kerala joint family after being trafficked from Tamil Nadu. The core of the protagonist, Roja, winning awards even from far New York, lies in the truth of the character.
Child sexual abuse is real, world over, more so in India. In the cloud of bigger crimes like rape and murder, this under-reported crime on unaware youngsters is the cause for several grow-ups being ashamed of their bodies and sexuality, at a later stage. Many abused find it difficult to have normal relationships as adults because of a marred childhood history of abuse, sometimes constant.
Bodily abuse of a child could be happening right now in our own family, to our own child! In menaces like this one and others, on children, we should not be looking for figures — if one in ten or ten thousand children are abused daily it should not matter. Because every individual child abused, physically or verbally is a traumatised future citizen with unexplained emotional baggage and untold fears. A lot of personality disorders are rooted in child abuse, sexual or otherwise.
The abuser could be the neighbour, tailor, maid, bus driver, relative or teacher. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse come in all garbs. Lack of clarity about sex education, gradual transformation from joint families to nuclear units and being at the crossroads of traditional India and a booming Western culture has only created more adults and adolescents with confusion about ways to express their sexuality. If you care for the statistics, more and more children are being abused daily in India, surprisingly, male children too.
Pascal Mazurier, 39, from the French Consulate, has been accused by his wife of raping their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter in Bangalore, last week.
The courts are recording an increasing number of cases in which fathers are allegedly raping young daughters in drunken stupor and female teachers are sexually abusing male children. In the United States, the recent case of Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach abusing young boys over a 15-year-period, opens our eyes to the enormity of the menace that is child abuse. Attorney General Linda Kelly observed in the case, “This is a crime that thrived in the darkness. It’s fed by fear, threats, shame and secrecy.”
As responsible adults in a country with lack of proper education on sexual matters, we need to educate our children about inappropriate behaviour; we need to explain use of discretion in a proper and improper touch. Young children need constant physical protection from strangers, intruders and the abuser. They also need to be told that they have not erred and that the mistake is with the adult.
Back in my NGO days at Madhyam, a 50-minute documentary on child sexual abuse titled, My children who should be running freely through the vast open spaces educated me on how this crime has no economic or social barriers. It made me realise how incest has a global presence and punishment for child sexual abuse is not stringent, hence indirectly helping the adult pervert. Parenting is bigger responsibility than we know.
A wronged child could later turn out to be a perpetrator of sexual crimes, like rape, according to research. Studies also tell us that explaining to a child about biological changes will go a long way in helping her/ him understand and accept her/ his body better. Media clichés and wrong adult models are leading to a big number of abused children grow up into stressed people with misplaced aggression. Rampant domestic violence could probably be the result of untold and unexplained abuse in childhood. Growing crime itself is an example of an inappropriate past.
We don’t need an Aamir Khan or a special programme like Satyameva Jayate to wake us up to a reality called CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. We need to wake up before the innocence is robbed out of the childhood of many more children.
The writer works for Postnoon.