The horrific rape of two toddlers, one age 4 and the other a tiny 2 has once again brought to the fore the disturbing issue of child abuse. I do not know how many posts I have written about this monstrous reality. One time is too many. Each time I sit down to pen my words I feel hopeless, helpless, sad, angry and terribly guilt ridden and tormented by my inability to do something to stop this horror. Erin Merryn wrote: The very first part in healing is shattering the silence. Her words ring so true as in India today we need to shatter the deafening silence; not only the silence that too often surrounds the victim in the name of some brand of misplaced honour, but the ear piercing silence of society as a whole. In the past week 3 toddlers have been raped! One is just 2 years old. She was raped by two juveniles age 17. They have been arrested and so have the perpetrators of the rape of a 4 year old. All lived in the neighbourhood of their tiny victims. Children are normally abused by friends and family. That is a reality we have to accept and own.
I watch with a sick feeling the usual drama that follows such abhorrent crimes. The pain of the family, the short lived anger of the neighbourhood, activities and society at large crying for blood, the rabid talk shows, the blame game where all that matters is who gains the maximum brownie points and photo ops, the slewof articles trying to find some logical explanation, the aberrations expressed by the guardians of patriarchal morality who are quick to lay responsibility on the victim and so on. Then the din stops. Some other occurrence gains the attention of one and all. All that remains if the silent pain of the mother and the quiet anger of the family.
The slow and inadequate legal system crawls in the emptied space and takes over. We are all aware of the dismal number of rape cases that see any trial let alone conviction at all. This happens again and again and again. I wonder why we have stopped asking the disturbing WHY.
I do not have awards to return or any such flamboyant action to register my intense distress. I just have this space and I use it again and again and again. Not doing is not an option.
The question I ask myself is why are the number of rapes and abuse against women increasing. And please do not talk to me about social profiling. The malaise is across the social spectrum. A friend recently told me about a game being played by three six year olds in one of the most upmarket school where two boys pinned down a girl (all classmates) and parted her legs and then declared she would have a baby. These kids were from wealthy and educated homes. One often quotes promiscuity in the cases of slum children who live in one room spaces and thus see more than they should. I guess the kids in richer homes access inappropriate information in multiple ways too.
The bottom line for me is that the sex education, if there is any, has not kept pace with the day-to-day reality children of today live in. If at one end of the spectrum it is lack of time of the parents to guide their child through life, at the other it is lack of knowledge. In both cases parents are not fulfilling this aspect of child rearing.
And please do not come up with the No Sex Please; We are Indians quip, I am sick and tired of hearing about the hydra headed monster called morality! In today’s world sex education should begin at a very early age and accompany the child through her/his adolescence at least. A wishy washy lesson on human reproduction is not sex education.
The crux of the matter is age appropriate. This should be instilled in children as soon as possible. The morality preachers cannot put a stop to the hormonal upheaval that plays in every body, male or female. This is natural. What one can do is explain these and give the required and age appropriate skills to our young ones.
One also needs to explain to them the consequences of deviant behaviour and warn them’ but one also needs to absolutely stop condoning any inappropriate behaviour as was so well exemplified by one of our political stalwarts in his Boys will be Boys comment.
Our society is going through a difficult phase with the advent of information at the speed of light. Everyone has access to the net, to social networks, to You Tube and so on. What we do not realise is that what is seen as a tender age and not processed in the right manner can lead to disaster.
These boys were caught and will get what they deserve. Will the punishment serve as a deterrent. The answer is no. That is because the punishment will take time, and with children time is something we do not have. You cannot begin to imagine how many little girls will be molested by raging young hormones and never tell the story.
We need act now.
Today’s children do not read books that are inspiring; they do not have role models in their parents or teachers; moral studies is off the school menu; sex education is taboo. No one has time for them.
We have to as a society, as a political dispensation, as an education institution and as a family find quality time for our children. That would be the first step to breaking the silence and healing society.