Child sexual abuse is one of the most horrendous and ghastly things that plagues the human society. Children are victimized across the globe but when it comes to Kashmir we continue to sweep the issue under the carpet because of the taboos associated with it. We continue to adhere to our false morality and ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Our outward projection of honor, dignity and prudishness camouflages an inward moral depravity.
I fail to comprehend how we, as Muslims, continue to remain silent when it comes to sexual abuse of children. Everyone knows about it but people still prefer to remain in a deep state of denial, unless the brutal rape incidents at Kathua and Sumbal surface up, and make headlines. It is then that the conscience of our nation is shaken (though temporarily).
For any conscientious society, the Kathua Rape case should have been enough to arouse us from our deep slumber to the pervasive child sexual abuse. But what exactly would shake our dead conscience permanently, is a mystery. Like the Kathua Rape case, the present movement for justice will stay with the social, print and electronic media for few weeks and would then die down. It is about time that we as parents, teachers and primary care givers do something about this menace.
Is punishing the culprit enough? Definitely not. Some serious measures need to be taken to counter this ever growing vicious circle. Parents and teachers need to create awareness about sexual abuse amongst children. According to statistics, every second child is being exposed to some form of sexual abuse and every fifth child faces a critical form of it. The perpetrators in both the cases are from the child’s inner circle. Thus children must be taught what actions and behaviors are inappropriate instead of teaching them to be aware of an archetypal ‘stranger’. The concept of stranger may let them lower their guard down around anyone who doesn’t fit into that rigid category. Children will be cautious of people they do not know but it also means that when any insider harms them, they will not comprehend that a crime was even committed.
In villages, parents leave their children unattended in play areas and even on streets. Children as young as 5 are allowed to buy groceries from local shops exposing them to the risk of abuse. By being more vigilant, parents can definitely make a change in the lives of their children. Increasing mothers’ awareness of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) prevention could protect children and ensure their safety. Social taboos associated with child sexual abuse need to be dispelled. Age appropriate information about child sexual abuse prevention needs to be incorporated in our school curriculum without any delay. Being a mother of three daughters, my heart bleeds to even think about the condition of this little angel, but I’m really proud of her parents who raised their voice and protested against this gruesome incident. She is lucky that she was not wrapped into oblivion like thousands of other children who suffer sexual abuse at the hand of their own folk. For the sake of these innocent souls let’s pledge to break this “Culture of Silence” once for all. May no father and no mother suffer as these parents from Sumbal are suffering now !
Rehana Bhat is Senior Assistant Professor English literature, Islamia College of Science & Commerce Srinagar