Incest and child abuse, our worst kept secrets

  • KumKum Dasgupta, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 19, 2014 12:46 IST

It is always interesting to read readers’ comments/debates on stories we publish on As I scrolled down the comments thread of Capital Shame; Incest rapes on the rise; fathers among offenders couple of hours ago, I found some of our valuable readers think that incest is increasing in India thanks to the influence of western culture and the expansion of social media.

I was hardly surprised to read these comments. These two are the easiest of excuses to trot out when you don’t want to face an unpleasant truth that clashes with your belief system. In this case, some of our readers (there are many more like them all around us) are refusing to believe that incest/sexual exploitation of children is the nation’s worst kept secret. And that both girls and boys are equally at risk.

According to the Delhi Police, 1,704 cases of rape were registered in the Capital in the first 10 months of this year, 215 were instances of incestuous rape. More disturbingly, in 43 of these cases it was the father who committed the crime and in 27 cases it was the brother.

There are several reports that show that sexual abuse of children is rampant in India: According to a study conducted by the ministry of woman and child development, 53.22% of the children surveyed reported having faced sexual abuse and almost half of them reported that abusers were known to them. The study sampled 12,447 children, 2,324 young adults and 2,449 stakeholders across 13 states of the country.

And then there is a 2005 report by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Studies which showed that out of the 200 college going girls they interviewed, 77% said some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 and 40% of the group said that they were abused by people they have known.

Unfortunately, many such cases go unreported because of disbelief, denial or simply because a girl’s ‘honour’ is seen to be linked to her family’s honour. But by keeping such incidents under wraps, these victims are further victimised. In fact, many boys are also abused but unfortunately their trauma is hardly talked about. Unsurprisingly, these anger and frustration build up in these boys and when they grow up, they are likely to vent it out against more vulnerable groups like women and children.

One of the institutionalised forms of child sexual abuse in India are child marriages. In Rajasthan on Akha Teej, hundreds of child marriages are still performed. “The sexual abuse of children not only has damaging and long-term impact on the victim, but also affects the families, communities, and society at large. Like any crime that continues to go unchecked, the sexual abuse of children- both within our homes and outside is an issue of grave concern and directly suggests the health of a society as a whole,” writes Dr Asha Bajpai, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, in Childline India Foundation.

In 2012, Parliament passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act which for the first time has listed “aspects of touch as well as non-touch behaviour” (photographing a child in an obscene manner) under the ambit of sexual offences.

I think all those who blame the West or social media for such incidents are indirectly helping the predators.

Instead of making such lame excuses, they should introspect and try to find out whether such incidents have happened in their families or their community because child victims often suffer such attacks in silence. And breaking this silence is the first step to any recovery process.

A strong law will never be enough to stop such attacks; people first have to take the responsibility for this crime and establish a procedure of restitution.

And if you are still unconvinced that child abuse is India’s worst keep secret and has been happening for years even before the rise and rise of social media and the increasing influence of western culture, please watch the second episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate on the issue.

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