The Elephant in the Room: Child Abuse in Swachch Bharat

Thursday, August 14, 2014 Of Minds And Mixtapes 0 Comments

The Elephant in the Room, Banksy exhibition, 2006 Barely Legal show, Los Angeles

"If we can change in just one generation from a society where smoking cigarettes was the epitome of sophistication and glamour, then surely we can change our society where physical abuse and neglect of children is occurring in increasing numbers every year. It's about change."
Lesley Taylor, 'What Does Being Nice Have to Do With Child Abuse Prevention?' at TEDxDarwin 2012

We have read, seen, heard of or experienced child abuse, sexual or otherwise, and will probably agree that it is a long, uphill battle to recover from the emotional wounds gotten from this abuse. Yet, are we doing enough to counter it, prevent it? Sure, we have the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) that came into existence as early as November 2012 ---obviously before that sexual abuse of children was not a problem in our swachch country; the kids were just making it up, on a large scale--- but is an Act enough to address the problem?

Quite simply, the answer is 'No'.

The fact is that this subject isn't discussed as intensely as it should be. The Indian film industry heavyweights aren't making films on the topic. There isn't any major soap opera basing it's plot on this subject. When was the last time you saw a PSA on child abuse? The dhumrapan PSA has been learnt verbatim by movie goers in every corner of the country, and is one of the reasons why numerous smokers quit smoking. Why aren't PSAs on child abuse and child trafficking running as many times as the Jaago Grahak Jaago announcements? Would an ad like that will hurt our swachch Indian sentiments? Hit too close to home, may be?

By the numbers:
In 2011 alone, 60,000 children were reported missing from a total of 28 states and union territories according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). That's almost 7 children an hour. Meaning: In the time you were watching Koffee With Karan, around 7 kids have been violated somewhere in our country.
12.66 million children work as child laborers in factories, construction sites, and as domestic workers across the country.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi in his report last year stated that the money generated through child sex trade in India alone is around $343 billion. It is as depraved as depraved can be.
Add to these, you have a number of rape / molestation cases where victims are as young as 2/3 years old. Children are being preyed upon at schools, at coaching classes, in alleys, in buses, at home, by strangers and people they know.
Some of such crimes aren't reported out of fear. (Fear is only an excuse, and so is family pride)

We've heard these; we are talking about it. Just not as well as the magnitude of the problem warrants us to. Also, our discourse of this subject might be a little distorted or skewed (as is our discourse on so many things like climate change, freedom of expression, Modi's 56 inch chest, marital rape, and rape in general); a lot like what filmmaker and author, Jackson Katz explains in his TED Talk:
"It starts with a very basic English sentence: "John beat Mary." That's a good English sentence. John is the subject. Beat is the verb. Mary is the object. Good sentence. Now we're going to move to the second sentence, which says the same thing in the passive voice. "Mary was beaten by John." And now a whole lot has happened in one sentence. We've gone from "John beat Mary" to "Mary was beaten by John." We've shifted our focus in one sentence from John to Mary, and you can see John is very close to the end of the sentence, well, close to dropping off the map of our psychic plain. The third sentence, John is dropped, and we have, "Mary was beaten," and now it's all about Mary. We're not even thinking about John. It's totally focused on Mary. Over the past generation, the term we've used synonymous with "beaten" is "battered," so we have "Mary was battered." And the final sentence in this sequence, flowing from the others, is, "Mary is a battered woman." So now Mary's very identity -- Mary is a battered woman -- is what was done to her by John in the first instance. But we've demonstrated that John has long ago left the conversation." [For reference, his entire lecture is at the end this post]
Likewise, our Johns need to be the focus of the discourse. But since ours is a culture of abuse we find comfort in passive victim-blaming, or blaming chowmein, jeans, mobile phones, the evil West. Well, actually our leaders blame these; we just blame the government.

Speaking of: A government's accomplishments and failures can be checked on various counts, but if consecutive governments fail to approach, let alone tackle the problem of child abuse in the country, maybe we need to stop looking at the government and take a hard look at ourselves and people around us, for collectively, we have projected our indifference and insensitivity on the issue on to the government. We have failed to demand our governments to act on the matters of child abuse. And like Joseph de Maistre said, "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite", every nation gets the government it deserves.

May be it's time we started an open conversation on child abuse. Get people talking about the actual causes and effects, and how we can help abused children heal well. It is time we Indians shed a blinding light on the factors that shape and shield child abusers and paedophiles, and of course abusive individuals in general. It's time we called out institutions (familial and religious alike) on their bullshit beliefs that help produce and protect abusive individuals. Get people to take a stand and say "enough." Yes, we deserve a responsible government. But only a responsible nation –a nation of responsible parents, relatives, friends, neighbours and communities, could elect a responsible government. Our government is only as good as us.

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Jukebox Selection:

“Never Too Late” by Three Days Grace
"Never Too Late" is the third single from Canadian rock band Three Days Grace off their second album One-X. It reached the top of the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 2007-08. It's music video has reached around 58 million views on YouTube, and the theme being sensitive and relatable, the video holds it's own till the end. The music video portrays a girl who has been sexually abused as a child, explaining her traumatic breakdown and hospitalization.

The video and the song really hit home with me. I've known a couple of people who have either threatened to commit suicide or who have tried, and I think that this song is a really good message to them: It's never too late-- it's never too late to change your world, and never too late to change everyone else's world and make it better.