That child abuse continues blatantly in a world contemplating manned missions to other planets is heartbreaking. Many questions arise on the priorities we have as compassionate societies that think of the welfare of all. If we cannot treat our children right, of what use will conquering other galaxies ever amount to? Why do we talk of glass ceiling inequalities with more aggression in our office cafeterias and yet remain silent on child rapes that happen in the underbelly of our society? Why is it that a child’s innocence captures perspective more deeply than an experienced adult, whose deliberate ignorance lets off uncomfortable realities with a shrug?
Isn’t there something that is fundamentally not right in a fabric that is now being woven by our young country? Will a shift in their conversations matter at all? Will the young of our country take up the baton to bridge the gap caused by atrocities on little children? Or will our children continue to be treated like trash because they do not form the very important vote-bank? Does that mean their voices should silently be murdered each day? Or is each of us responsible for giving birth to damaged adults?
Ironic patterns emerge when I interact with young girls, with every indication that they are aware of the peculiarities of the society they live in.
One afternoon, as the children of a street school in an urban slum in Delhi and I worked on the script of a theatre production on the importance of toilets in their community, a 12-year-old girl innocently remarked, “Our parents make it so clear that they don’t like it when we wear jeans or skirts, because they fear, our skin shows. But ma’am, then why are they okay with us going out in the open to defecate. That way, our entire body shows out in the open, and they never seem to complain. Are they stupid?”
She only recently started going to school. If you met her you would say that she was just another 12-year-old girl. To be more precise, she’s ‘just another 12-year-old girl from an urban slum in Delhi’. Her day begins not with selfies on an iPhone6 of how perfectly messed up her hair is, or bathing in aroma therapy lather, but by queuing up with about 35 men and women, young, middle-aged and old, to get a chance at the community toilet. Often times, she has seen young boys masturbate in front of her, she mentions as a matter of fact — with a very angry laughter. She cooks for her family before she leaves for school, perfectly diametric chapattis. Since she was six, her mother made sure the chapattis were round. If not, she’d give her a sound beating. Why not, she says? That’s a jewel every girl should adorn, else she will not get a husband. Her own left her for another woman and never came back. This mother also doesn’t know that this daughter of hers has been raped at the age of four.
There are millions like her in our country. Perhaps more. Children with sharp perspectives but with a blurred childhood and a future that looks moldy in adolescence. This moldy adolescence will rot, and rot deep. And then conveniently, years later, another damaged citizen would have been birthed.
It is time to ask: Is this fair?
Sonal Kapoor is the founder-CEO of Protsahan, an enterprise that empowers street children and adolescent girls
The views express are personal