28th June 2007
I hope this statistic wakes people up. It is happening all around us, very likely in our own families. “Page 3″ is another movie that treats the issue of child sexual abuse. Note that both Monsoon Wedding and Page 3 were “alternative” cinema though they did play in mainscreen theatres.
When considering this issue of child abuse and its alarmingly high prevalence, I think we need to look more critically at the structures of authority operating within the family and the school. Concepts of reciprocity between parents or teachers and children, mutual respect and shared power would help many people cut through established parenting/teaching practices and help children protect themselves from abuse of power by anyone, within or without the family/school. India is a land where we still see tribal and remote rural societies practicing some of the healthy family ways that so impressed Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept, and urban and urbanizing families rapidly embracing rigid, authoritative discipline felt to be necessary for the modern, competitive society. Concepts such as consensual living, transparency in parenting or unschooling aren’t much discussed outside elite circles.
Day after Christmas in Mumbai, 2 class II students were made by a teacher to parade naked as a punishment for bad grades and the newspapers were writing about how the child was still refusing to go to school – the teacher was not punished or suspended. The next day another story appeared about a student who was suspended for alleging that a principal had abused her.
Unfortunately stories like this appear in the paper with alarming frequency. Easily once a week, sometimes several in the same day. And that is just in one paper in one city.
Abolishing punishment from schools would be one very necessary step towards balancing the power between children and adults. One among many many urgently necessary steps…
Culture of tolerance for abuse and exploitation … ragging in colleges, children’s games that emphasise out & in. Compare a game like freeze tag or lock&key where the kids are constantly alternating who is in and out and there is some shared advantage in keeping as many people in as possible while only one person tries to get people out ..
One’s sense of self depends on making others feel lower. We see parents and elders coaching children to think this way, though in my observation it does not come naturally. Why do people do it – for short term gains. To manipulate the child. “DO this, or else people will laugh at you.” Is that a reason to do anything? “Say this, or we will think you don’t know it.” Are appearances more important than what is inside? Yet these very values, pushed from a young age, lead to the fear and shame that make abuse possible.