Incest needs public debate and a stringent law to combat it
It was with relief that I read that the police are not falling for the bullshit being dished out by the “tantric” and “astrologer” Hasmukh Rathod and Kishore Chauhan (accused rapists) that the rape of the two young daughters of Kishore took place because Chauhan thought he’d become rich (as promised by the tantric). What those two men did was perverted and criminal, and no superstition could be involved. Details revealed by the girls’ uncle point to the fact that Chauhan, the girls’ father was a sicko. His wife participated as well, either due to fear or because she had similar leanings.
If some believe that the reason for the incest was to make money, I think it is a naïve way of looking at it, but then typical in a society with no laws to tackle incest, where incest is not a public issue, and where hardly any victims report these crimes. Why even rapes are under reported in India and when it comes to incest then there is the additional pressure from family. Our legal system lays down stringent punishment for rape by custodians, but the father is not included in this category. Incest cases do go to court, but rarely get as much media attention as this one has, and I think one of the reasons why this case has got this much publicity is because it’s come on the heels of the horrific Fritzl case (where a father imprisoned his daughter in a dungeon for 24 years and had seven children by her). The Fritzl case has brought this issue into everyone’s drawing rooms.
Incest isn’t new and nor is it peculiar to any country. If there are those who think that incest doesn’t happen in India, I think they are not willing to accept the reality. I personally believe that incest is more common in India than in some other countries as here there is no fear of the law. It’s not just about fathers raping daughters, but also uncles and cousins and brothers in law and fathers in law. One has to also keep in mind that in our society boys and girls are not allowed to mix, but mixing with relatives is not taboo. So you have the lack of laws, a prudish society which refuses to accept these incidents, sexual repression, a society which reveres family ties, a society where romance between boys and is frowned upon. Put it all together and you have a haven for incest to flourish. Non-victims (for example wives) could also remain mute witnesses if they are financially dependent. Also children in our society are often considered stupid, not old enough to be taken seriously. This makes adults doubt their word.
Pink Virani has written a book on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and about incest as well. She writes that it is a “myth that home is safest place for the child”. It is a pity that people often sweep these things under the carpet.
Our ancients (and those of other cultures) were pretty clear on what was perversion and what was not. The wiki has some information on this.
Hindus practice to date strict rules of both endogamy and exogamy, that is, marriage in the same caste (Varna in Hinduism) but not in the same family tree (gotra) or bloodline (Parivara). Marriages within the gotra (“swagotra” marriages) are banned under the rule of exogamy in the traditional matrimonial system. People within the gotra are regarded as kin and marrying such a person would be thought of as incest. In some South Indian communities, marriages are/were allowed between uncle (mother’s brother) and niece and at times cousins.
Islam also lays down rules:
A man cannot marry or have sexual relationships “with his mother, daughter, sister, paternal or maternal aunt, niece, a woman from whom he has nursed, a woman who has nursed from the same woman as he, his mother-in-law, the daughter of his wives with whom he has consummated the marriage (though if he has not, it is allowed), the wife of his biological son, or his father’s wife. The same applies for a woman with the male counterparts to the aforementioned. However, marriages with first cousins can be allowed.
Christianity does not allow incest: Men cannot have “sexual relations with their daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and various other relations”. This clause also covers step-children.
The ancient Romans frowned upon incestuous relationships, and thought of them being “against the laws of gods and man”. An imperial edict in AD 295 forbade incest. Everyone knows the story of Oedipus (fiction) who accidentally marries his mother and for which he punishes himself by blinding. Even his four children are punished because of the sin their parents committed.
However, incestuous marriages did happen in some cultures in ancient times, for example, during the Graeco-Roman period of Egyptian history, particularly amongst royalty.
But it is not really a question of whether incest happened or not because perverts always existed. However the ancients realised very early on that incest could destroy the family (besides increasing the risk of defective children) and therefore religions and societies denounced it.
Looking at it in a broader context of child sexual abuse, because incest (and child sexual abuse) was considered shocking and unacceptable, it went underground. And in the developed west, it did not become a public issue until the 1970s and 1980s. In fact studies on child molestation started only after the 1920s.
Where child abuse is concerned, I think in India we are still in the nineteen hundreds (in terms of law and public debates and research). As the 2007 study on Child Abuse in India by the Ministry of Women & Child Development says “50% of abusers are known to the child or are in a position of trust and responsibility and most children had not reported the matter to anyone” And when it comes to actual prevalence “approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children”. But this percentage includes only those who admitted the abuse to researchers.
Here’s more from the study:
Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.
Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; women commit approximately 14% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.
One must mention here that abuse of boys also also takes place and not always by men:
Significant under reporting of sexual abuse of boys by both women and men is believed to occur due to sex stereotyping, social denial, the minimization of male victimization, and the relative lack of research on sexual abuse of boys.
It’s time that we in India realised the enormity of the problem of incest as well as child sexual abuse by caretakers. Anyone abusing a child in their care should get at least 15 years behind bars. And a child’s testimony should be believed.
(Photograph is by me and copyrighted. It is for representative purposes only)
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Sex tourism in India
We don’t want to admit that our kids go missing!
Male teachers banned in primary schools in Delhi to prevent sexual abuse
Child-Abuse of the Emotional Kind