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April 24, 2013

Four long months since a young woman died from a brutal gang rape in New Delhi. Two months since the so called fast track trial of the accused started, first ‘in camera’ and then with media presence, which faithfully reports the proceedings to the general public – blow by blow descriptions of the hearings that brings into focus the deliberate mockery of the justice system – absent lawyers, planted evidence, never ending sessions of recording witnesses. While one of the major suspects commits suicide while in police custody, others clamor for better food, the right to appear in a public examination. While every day the media publish news of other atrocities carried out with impunity all over the country, painting the role and nature of the law enforcers in harsh lines. While political parties play the blame game to the hilt for the benefit of their real or imaginary vote banks. While the civil society, after the initial short lived outrage goes back to their daily lives in what Nirad C Chaudhuri described as ‘the continent of Circe’.

The brutal rape and torture of the five year old girl now fighting for her life in a hospital in New Delhi is now revealing another ugly aspect of these crimes. Over the last couple of months, we have been horrified by the news of young girls, not even in their puberty, being kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered. So much for the opinions of a large percentage of the Indian population that it is a woman’s fault if she is raped – was she not out too late on her own? Was she not dressed provocatively? Did she do everything to prevent getting raped? Oh, the questions are endless. So are the solutions proposed and actually followed – stay indoors, don’t go out after sundown, forget having a good time with your friends – male or female. Preserve your modesty, don’t wear western clothes, don’t ever contradict any man wherever you are, be modest, keep your eyes lowered. Stop this, stop that, stop breathing if you can…

Except that these young girls were not women. They could not have ‘provoked’ their assaulters (as if that is an excuse) and driven them to lust and carnal desire. So these repeated incidents of molesting young girls call for a different explanation. We don’t have to look very far – at last a whole society has to face up to the reality of paedophilia. For there is no other way to explain it.

We live in a country where street children, especially girls, are victims of multiple rapes. Sunitha Krishnan, chief functionary and co-founder of Prajwala, recently reported the horrors encountered in the streets of India. While a few activist organizations fight to give these bruised girls a new lease of life, the average citizen is neither concerned nor interested in such issues. Because these are happening to the street children, the pariahs that live on the fringes of the ‘civilized’ society. They are part of the invisible population – we have determinedly closed our eyes to their plight. So very little is said about these sexual offenders who are, however, different from others. They are paedophiles.

I believe that this is a very common disorder in Indian males, known to all, acknowledged by none. Can any young girl growing up in India claim not to have suffered from inappropriate behavior from members of the family – uncles, cousins, friends of the family – who, pretending affection, actually fondled them? Or of not cringing in illogical shame on public transport while middle aged perverts pressed against them? Or feeling disturbed by the unwanted attentions of the helpers on the school bus? I think not. I think all little girls suffer such things while growing up, irrespective of her economic and social background, across the urban-rural divide. And I think that the adults knew it too. But like in a lot of other things, the cult of secrecy and deliberate blanking out of facts prevail, and slowly the girls got drawn into the web. That is the reason for the ever increasing incidents of abuses, molestations and rapes that take place within the walls of our homes. Behind closed doors & windows, involving close family members. There is widespread consensus of professionals on this in India. Not to talk of marital rapes – but that is not the subject under discussion.

And now the monster is showing us its ugly head again and again, attacking young defenseless girls, and killing them to avoid detection. This is a lethal combination which all countries are trying to combat today – the criminality that results from an initial disorder, a medical condition, that modern treatment can help contain or even cure. But how is any treatment possible in the face of total and blank denial? A study conducted in 2007 by health professionals estimated that in India, four out of every 10 boys and six out of 10 girls have been sexually abused at some point by an adult. We can safely extrapolate those figures given the current ambience. Recent studies suggest that molested children often develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) that can take different forms. Are these recent crimes a result of that? If so, could they have been prevented?

Don’t you find it incredible that in a country like India paedophilia cases are hardly ever reported? That there are so few professionals who actually work on this issue? That the society as a whole chooses to deny its existence, just like the issue of homosexuality even a few years back? How long can a whole society continue to bury its head in the sand, and choose not to see? How many children have to die before their so called guardians wake up to the cruel and ugly reality?

I know that a lot of countries have gone to the other extreme, especially in Europe – there is a perpetual suspicion of all adults who come in close contact with young children – teachers, games instructors, lifeguards, priests… You no longer touch a child without permission, however innocent your intentions are. The children are instructed accordingly, and often distrust all adults outside the immediate family. Many would argue, especially in India, that all this is stealing their innocence and destroying their childhood. I have a completely different take on that – the children here are simply trained to detect abnormal behavior in adults and more importantly, talk about it to adults who actually believe them. They are doing a much better job of ensuring that their children have a safe and sane life. When will this happen in my country?

Aparajita Sen, 24th April, 2013.


From → Articles

  1. The Indian society is in a perpetual state of denial, particularly of paedophilia cases. The topic is ‘foreign’ to majority of Indians. Unlike Western nations that are mostly aging, India is sporting ‘younger’ population. Thus, the issue is prime for debate. A very well-written (as always) and thought-provoking article.

  2. I wonder why and how! Indian civilisation is ancient and has the bits and pieces of all civilisation. I hear proud citation here and there “Ja Nei Bharate, Ta Nei Bharate”. If it is not in the Mahabharat then it is not in the world. Also, Vedantic religion is the future religion of the world. The West who came from behind in every way economically and in terms of human experience on earth have now surpassed both ways, economically and culturally! How come? The article is well written as an expression of disgust. Readers would appreciate a reflection on how and why things happen. The style of reporting an event from a distance may give an impression to the reader is that the subject is alien to the writer and the connection gets lost, like sermons in the church, where we all sing the choir knowing the devil out there.

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