What happens when the idea of shelter and protection that you harboured since childhood gets horribly distorted? What happens when the notion of a worry free childhood comes to stand for something you would never want to recall? This thought hit me when a year back I was going through an article on sexual abuse in a shelter home in Karjat, Maharashtra. The monstrosity of the exploitation is something that for me is rather inexplicable. The children, aged between 5 to 15 who belonged to the poorer strata of society were made to watch Pornography and perform sexual acts on each other. If this was not enough to satiate the demonic desires of the perpetrators, the children were forced to eat human faeces in the face of hunger. More horror followed suit as all these dreadful deeds were filmed on a video camera. One of the accused is the Founder of the Chandraprabha Charitable Trust.
When one reads instances such as the one mentioned above and enquires into the context in which it occurred, who committed it and where, then one is forced to deliberate on the whole idea of protection. If a child is not even safe in a shelter home then the world has arrived at a point where we are probably staring at a dead future ahead of us. According to the World Health Organisation, child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse has become a phenomenon that has come to signify one of the biggest fears of the society. It is something that is most often repressed and concealed and this process of repression and concealment has a deep impact on the psyche of the child. What is threatening is that there are so many distorted assumptions and myths about Child Sexual Abuse and the fact that even in contemporary time people maintain a belief in them. I was going through some reports on Child Sexual Abuse on the internet and I chanced to come across some totally absurd yet predominant myths such as-
- Children are abused by strangers only, whereas statistics shows that in about 85% of such cases, the abuser is a relative or an acquaintance of the child concerned.
- Child Sexual Abuse is rampant only in the poorer families. This is a rather disturbing point because I know people who come from affluent families and who have been exploited sexually in childhood but never spoke about it because their families thought that it would tarnish the reputation of their whole clan.
- Boys cannot be abused. However, in opposition to this, one in every seven boys all over the world is abused.
It is necessary for the society to understand that instances of Child sexual abuse if left unreported and deliberately ignored can harm the psyche of the child for the rest of his/her life. It is imperative to contribute in the making of an environment which doesn’t ostracize or silence such cases. It is important to shed off the taboo related to child sexual abuse so that instead of hesitation and fear the child would be able to come out into the open about the exploitation. It is of paramount importance that the child shares a certain degree of comfort with the adults about it.
The central government did draft such a legislation in 2011: the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, which was sent to the various states for consideration. One version of the Bill became available to the press through sources at the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The draft of the Prevention of Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2011 delineates various kinds of sexual abuse and the prescribed response to each under the law. It clearly distinguishes between sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment.
However Child Sexual Abuse shouldn’t be a much talked about issue only in the wake of recent cases of violence in newspaper reports. The realm of laws and legislations will be effective only if they are facilitated by awareness about abuse and reporting against it. To stop it, let’s talk more about it. To end it, let’s keep talking about it.
About the Author
Uzma Shamim is pursuing B.A. English (Honours) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Her interests lie in blogging, teaching, creative writing and reading. She is passionate about working for Gender Equality and Child Rights. She wishes to pursue literary research and social activism in the future.