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Incest needs public debate and a stringent law to combat it

March 23, 2009

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.

child-womanIf 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)

Related Reading: No humanity towards trafficking victims
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

125 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2009 9:46 am

    The key is to create awareness amongst the child, at an early age what kind of ‘affection’ is wrong. Unfortunately, if the child is being abused in their home by a family member, they might not be able to speak against it.
    But stringent punishment for this Tantrik and Rathod, should set a precedent for such crimes… It sickens me to read about it, but its a cause we all need to stand up and fight for…

    Yeah, kids may not even know they are being abused! – Nita.

    • Rashmi permalink
      March 23, 2009 10:10 pm

      the problem with “making child aware of this abuse” is: our conservative society and so-called custodians of culture are completely against “basic sex education”. Forget about a child being made aware of sexual exploitation. They first need to understand what sex is (scientifically) to be able to know its abuse!

  2. March 23, 2009 9:48 am

    i think you are mixing incest and rape/sexual exploitation by guardian/relatives which are 2 totally different issues.

    • March 23, 2009 9:52 am

      Well, I don’t think so Ankur. They need not be totally different. A father is a caretaker guardian. If you follow the link to the times of india article it explains this more clearly. There is a law which gives stringent punishment for rape by guardians, but fathers are not included in this clause. They need to be, so that the rapes of their own children comes under this same law.

      • roopak permalink
        April 2, 2009 12:36 am

        i dont think we need to have a law, for every relative. they shud just be treated as rape cases.

    • March 23, 2009 10:22 am

      Consensual Incest (non-rape/exploitation) is as much an issue and should be dealt at par

      • March 23, 2009 6:13 pm

        Why is consensual adult relationship, that doesn’t involve sexual abuse or pedophilia, an issue that must be dealt with?

    • March 23, 2009 11:00 am

      Sexual exploitation by guardian is incest.

      • roopak permalink
        April 2, 2009 12:38 am

        incest is sexual relation between relatives, its not necessarily be exploitation.

    • Vinod permalink
      March 23, 2009 7:14 pm

      I would encourage the principle of proper naming in making laws, especially criminal laws. It always works out better in the long run. Child abuse and incest better be named as different crimes. They may have the same penalty. The principle does not preclude that.

      • March 24, 2009 9:29 pm

        Vinod, this is a very good suggestion and coming from a lawyer that too! We can have separate laws for these crimes and the penalty may be the same but if the perpetrator has committed several of the crimes (say incest and child abuse and rape and custodian rape) then he gets all the punishments put together…like 7+&+7+7! Ofcourse we need to have proper definitions of what each crime entails and what incest is. A lot of people may not agree on what incest is.

        • March 25, 2009 2:34 am

          Nita, I have written a post about it sometime back, where I have mentioned that Forced and consensual incest are two entirely different topics and while there is a need of a very stringent law for the former, what is to be done or not to be done for the latter is a topic of debate.
          Personally I think, what two adults do in the privacy of their home is none of our business but the case as the one you have mentioned is an insane criminal act.

          Amit, ofcourse forced incest and voluntary incest are two different things. It is almost the same difference between sex and rape! I was not referring to voluntary sex between two people unless of it falls under child sexual abuse. A 12 year old girl cannot consent to sex with her dad. It’s a crime. – Nita.

          • Hans permalink
            October 1, 2009 2:46 pm


            When most people hear the word incest, they imagine a child or teenager being abused by a relative. All but lost is the notion of related adults having sex by mutual consent. Why would adults choose to do this? Hard to say really, but as long as they are both adults and their consent is genuine then it really doesn’t matter much. Why do gay people have gay sex? Because they want to I suppose. Why they want to is a question for neurologists and behavioural psychologists. I don’t see the harm in two adults having sex together if they so choose. If they are related then they must take precautions to prevent conception naturally, but otherwise there is no real problem except for the disgust that most people have towards the idea. Disgust is not a moral principle.

            This stands in sharp contrast to the abuse of children by their relatives, a practice that stands alongside cold blooded murder in its evil. There are monsters in this world who hide themselves behind human faces. These monsters prey upon children, and they aren’t particular about who those children are. They’ll rape their own offspring as readily as they will the children of a stranger. It takes more than laws to protect the young from their predations. It takes vigilance on the part of people in the lives of those children, people who pay attention and call attention when that child is demonstrating symptoms of abuse. Stopping sexual abuse is not the duty of the police alone, or teachers alone, or parents alone. It is the duty of each and every person who has a child in their life.

  3. March 23, 2009 10:41 am

    reading about all this makes me realize what a bad world this already is…

    I am aware of the gothra and why we follow it,in fact many of my brahmin friends are not aware about it(though I do not do all the “pojas” I do know that our forefathers made some sense :P)

    As for the law,when has it ever covered anything,that should be covered? And we are talking of the world’s largest constitution..

    We have a few NGOs doing some sort of work,the media and the government have better things to do…education is the key to all this,but we are a nation where sex education will hurt the sentiments of the people rather those who exploit children…

    And we have all been saying we need this and that,but who is listening to us…is your vote or plea worth anything to the law makers and breakers? And we have cases filed against the minster who heads the ministry of women and child welfare,for supposedly condemning abuse…well as you said we caught up in the 19th century,the whole slumdog saga i.e. the criticism it got shows that we have hell of a big ego which we are not willing to give up…

    Vishesh, surprising isn’t that this basic law hasn’t been covered! But then considering that we following the old British laws, it’s not surprising! – Nita

  4. March 23, 2009 10:54 am

    😦 only the awareness of the children and believing them when they complain can make it possible to punish the culprit. but over cautiousness had its own problem when children become too shy or introvert and refuse to interact normally.

    Sakhi, yes observing children is very important. If their behavior changes then we know something is wrong, maybe at school or somewhere. – Nita.

  5. March 23, 2009 11:03 am

    It is sickening.I am sure such incidents take place all over the world.The answer,perhaps is that the parents must teach their children about different approach towards affection by all the relatives,except those of the mother.In any case one can take only preventive action and remain vigilent

    BK, in some cases even the mother can be a culprit! But yes, I too think the mother is most to be trusted. – Nita.

    • March 24, 2009 2:17 pm

      But case of mothers being culprit are less than 5 %, quoting the stats from Bitter chocolate research.

      btw, thanks for linking to my post. I found one fellow reviewer. 🙂

  6. March 23, 2009 11:06 am

    Not only do laws regarding incest/rape have to change but awareness has to be widened…Unfortunately, our government is more interested in things which will get them votes and the media in more readable/watchable news like Jade Goody’s death…

    • March 23, 2009 1:20 pm

      The wide coverage of Jade Goody’s cancer in the UK has given a 20% boost to women turning up for cervical screening. The media is wrong only up to a point; after that it is also about societal readiness to change.

      Indians, a people whose numbers exceed 1Bn not all of whom were immaculately conceived, are famously queasy about discussing sex in public (except in the dark cinema halls where Bollywood’s suggestive offerings can be ‘enjoyed’ – to me, that is perversion too!). So the change required is enormous.


      • March 23, 2009 7:45 pm

        Ofcourse, society has to change…That goes without saying…

      • Rashmi permalink
        March 23, 2009 10:14 pm

        It may have happened that wide coverage of Fritzl’s case may have helped the girl to muster courage and go to police. If that is the case, we need to thank media!

  7. March 23, 2009 11:07 am

    In Utah (US), sadly the same thing is happening for ages. There are villages where children are forced to have sex with step-fathers and higher members of Church.

    Every religion condemns but it is just a hooey which is misused. This tantrik has some high-up connection too.

    Father raping his own daughters and mother supporting it for years. Appaling! Disgusting!

  8. March 23, 2009 12:08 pm

    I agree with you Nita, most of Indians dont want to accept this fact.
    On another note there was such an uproar saying that slum dog gave a picture of India which was not true, but having worked with various schools for street children, and hearing their stories, all that happens, and much more worse than what is shown in movies.

    And you can imagine what will happen if a hollywood producer makes a movie on incest in India! – Nita.

  9. openlight permalink
    March 23, 2009 1:16 pm

    Yes, it is an subdued topic which came up like an volcano due to tantrik case.

    “I personally believe that incest is more common in India that in some other countries as here there is no fear of the law.”
    I differ on your view as it is not corroborated with any fact, yes sexual crimes are under reported and are increasing by day.

    “One has to also keep in mind that in our society boys and girls are not allowed to mix”
    Yes, they are not allowed but, in societies were mixing is allowed, does sexual crimes are lower ?? I differ on that and just because of no intermingling, individual’s tendency to become pervert or sexual offender increases is not the sole reason.

    Topic brings back to mind the Imrana rape case ( when daughter in law was raped by father-in-law and she was ordered to be made his wife by religious leaders. Its just sexual perversion and desire to ‘have it’ animalistic instinct which corrupts mind. Also add the recent Fiza and chand episode though it also has shades of women seeking money and power by using herself.

    I personally believe that muslim women are deprived of basic rights than other womenfolk of India. And common civil code should be implemented but, due to minority appeasement congress had shelved it for decades and results are for us to see. Humans act more on seeing others, similarly when muslims dominate their wives, have religious sanction for promiscuity, easy divorce (use and throw), others also feel deprived of this ‘facility’ and want to avail of it, may be a reason for increasing sexual crimes.

    One more point to the tantrik incident, mother said she developed illicit relationship with tantrik after 2-3 years of marriage and husband got to know of it. So, it might be that the girls are child of tantrik and wife and hence, father felt it rightful to do the act. This part has not been explored.

    India has an poor record in terms of punishment to guilty and I personally appreciate what Warangal police did to acid throwers (
    At present such iron handed quick punishments need to be given and strict laws akin to dowry laws should be made as early as possible for containing any future incident. Further, in same vain strict laws and action on eve-teasing should also be made as, it is the first step for sexual perverts.

    On individual’s prevention side, awareness about one’s body and abuse should be added in syllabus of schools at least from 6th standard onwards.

    This case showed that if protector turns abuser, child has little choice hence awareness is paramount and if the elder girl would had taken this action earlier, then at least her younger sister would had been saved from such horrendous incident.

    • nvs permalink
      October 23, 2013 9:57 pm

      In my opinion, the word “eve teasing” is outdated. The real term should be verbal abuse.

  10. March 23, 2009 1:17 pm

    Fritzl’s case was so appalling! and now this one ..
    I agree. Most Indians refuse to believe that incest happens in India .

    Religion does nothing to stop it. Infact religion is misused by such twisted minds to justify their perverted actions.

    Pinky Virani’s book is hard hitting..I picked it up after Poonam’s recommendation and it horrified me because it was so true.

    Indyeah, may so-called religious people do the most evil things. Religion is often the mask. – Nita.

  11. March 23, 2009 1:26 pm


    The Fritzl case is also a complex of factors not dissimilar to those at work in India. If you re-read about the police bungling the Natascha Kampusch case, you will begin to identify these factors which include a widespread societal disinclination to question or point out things that are out of step.

    My memories of Vienna are of several meals eaten in famous restaurants in cellars. Now cellars and Austria have an entirely different, and not wholesome, association in my mind.

    Shefaly, I have not read about the Natascha case, it wasn’t reported here but now will check it out. But as you said people tend to want to avoid confronting evil. It’s as if they feel that if they do, it will simply go away! – Nita.

  12. vasudev permalink
    March 23, 2009 2:05 pm

    there are accepted relationships where uncle marries niece/cousin marries cousin. historically too there have been strange weddings. in such cases wealth is preserved within the family. there is a certain amount of outside blood in uncle/niece/cousin/cousin.

    the relationship mentioned in the topic under discussion is something quite strange and unheard of (commonly).the world is moving into sexual adventurisms and experimentations. lift a times of india and see the number of mobile numbers advertised for massage at home/confidential friendship/travelling companion/guide…never seen such things being openly solicited before say 10 yrs.

    from pubs and fashions to incest. i think we are travelling right along with the devil.

    • nvs permalink
      October 23, 2013 10:08 pm

      One cannot compares incest btw adults to rape/sexual abuse of a minor. In kerala, marriage btw cousins (bro & sisters kids; never btw bro & bro’s / sister & sister’s kids) r allowed & still happens quite commonly. In Tamil Nadu, marriage btw uncle & niece is allowed. Actually, both r accepted by the court of law as well. In Kerala custom, at least the age difference btw the couple will be negligible or sometimes of the same age. And to the natives of the 2 states, it will be offending to refer to their custom as incestuous. Besides, the problem of dowry never arises in such cases.

  13. Chirag Chamoli permalink
    March 23, 2009 2:20 pm

    Hey you’ve read, “Bitter Chocolate” . Like everything else, Indian should accept this happens and don’t keep it in the family but go through the correct process of bringing justice. I don’t understand, how many things Indian will have to start agreeing happens in India

  14. March 23, 2009 2:22 pm

    I agree Nita. A majority of cases are never even reported.
    And your observation that nearly all earlier civilisations realised very early that incest could destroy the family is true too.

    We definitely need to be far more open about incest and child abuse. As of now, this is just another taboo topic.

  15. March 23, 2009 2:25 pm

    I completely agree with matter what ,we Indians baulk even at the mere thought of incest in our country let alone accept it, and you are right,the notion that home is that safest place I guess gives the perpetrators that extra confidence to do this hideous crime.

  16. March 23, 2009 2:26 pm

    Have you read ‘The Colour Purple’ by Alice Walker? It talks about incest. And despite touching such a subject, when you finish reading the book, you are left feeling very positive.

    I haven’t read this one IHM but will keep it in mind. – Nita.

  17. March 23, 2009 2:28 pm

    Incest is fairly common though it is not acknowledged. Journalists on crime beat see it happening and often don’t report all of these cases, as they feel it is too disgusting to read.

    In just one poor locality where brown sugar and smack is freely available, NGOs had found that there was some form of sexual abuse or incest in every third house.

    But again, in aflluent families, it just doesn’t come out. Even if, in some cases, relatives get an air about it, it remains unreported for fear of disgrace to the entire clan.

    Indsribe, every third house you say. I am not at all surprised! – Nita.

  18. R.Sajan permalink
    March 23, 2009 3:44 pm

    In the Southern States [other than Kerala], orthodoxy demands that a girl marry only her mother’s brother. The marriages in Karunanidhi’s family are an example. Murasoli Maran was brother-in-law as well as son-in-law.
    In Kerala, the matrilineal system required marriage with your maternal uncle’s or paternal aunt’s offspring.
    On ancient Egypt, royalty could marry only a sibling.
    Brainwashed as we are by Victorian morality, we might consider anew whether the ancients were totally wrong.

    • March 23, 2009 3:54 pm

      It is not just about Victorian morality; it is also about the far greater risk of passing on autosomal recessive and other genetic disorders. Consanguineous relationships, especially those that result in children, reduce genetic diversity, opportunity for a healthy life and longevity.

      • Naveen permalink
        March 23, 2009 8:25 pm

        I think the ill-health of offsprings of consanguineous relationships are a little too overstated, atleast in your comment. A recent global analysis has shown that early death or ill-health is not more than 4 percent higher in children of first cousins than equivalent non-consanguineous offspring. Compare it to marriages in the same caste, the relative risk should be much less.
        Is there a risk? -Yes.
        Have you overstated it? -Yes.

        • March 23, 2009 8:53 pm

          Naveen, sorry to butt in, but I think that if these relationships become common it can affect the health of a population. I think the best way would be evaluate small communities who keep intermarrying and see the rate of deformities and health problems they face after several generations. These things may not have a devastating affect in just one generation.

          • Naveen permalink
            March 24, 2009 1:11 am

            Nita, Ashkenazi Jews are always cited as a good example for population genetics studies. This jewish community was a small population in Germany in the 11th century, that inter-married for centuries to make up a huge population that constitute 80% of jews today -around 7 million. There are a lot of genetic diseases that are more prevelant and importantly -some completely absent in this community. And nobody can question the genius of this community, who made every known contribution to mankind. Would their genius be preserved if not for the inter-marriages? I don’t know.

          • R.Sajan permalink
            March 24, 2009 8:54 am

            We might check disease-proneness easier at home itself by looking at our Southern States.

            I should think that the majority of the consanguineous there do not always have genetic illnesses. In many cases, it has helped to continue good traits. Of course, if the genetically defective intermarry, there might be issues. Genetics says that male-female attraction happens more between those that have mutually-rectifying [compatible] genetic states than others.

            They say that man was originally consanguineous only. This might be true also. Social requirements might have induced the anti-incest moral codes, similar to the taboo against Onanism.

            Are we influenced more by wrong morality than scientific truth here….?

            • March 24, 2009 9:38 am

              Sajan, I assume you are not talking of parent child sexual relationships because these have not been generally accepted in any human society.
              Also frankly I myself think of my cousin brothers and sisters as my brothers and sisters and marriage with any of them makes me extremely uncomfortable. From the point of view of defects, well it is not just defects. It can be a predisposition to say heart disease or say some weakness of another organ. I do believe that it is more healthy for the kids to be born of genetically different pools. I also tend to feel that science supports my view but whether the scientific facts are overstated or not is not something I can say.

              • R.Sajan permalink
                March 25, 2009 9:56 pm

                We generally feel uncomfortable with cousins’ marrying because of the values that have been induced into us from childhood. This is only natural. If we had grown up in a society that disapproved of non-consanguineous marriages, we would have felt uncomfortable with any other kind of marriage.

                Earlier than say, fifty years ago, inter-caste marriages had been unthinkable, mostly because it caused Varna-sankara. Look at our changed values about caste now.

                When the Semitic or European religions had laid down the law against incest, those cultures had been very primitive. India was already civilised in those times. We were also much advanced in matters of health care. Could it not therefore, be that the Indian ideas of consanguinity might be more correct than the Semitic ideas? Could our current ideas not be as ridiculous as our wearing ties, socks and shoes in our climate?

        • March 23, 2009 9:19 pm


          Could you cite the reference please?

          Now on whether I overstate the risk or not:

          1. The risks are varied. The genetic risks include amongst others ocular disorders, and Bardet Biedl syndrome. The direct costs (health provisioning) and indirect costs (costs to family and society, cost of co-morbidities) of these may appear inconsiderable in contexts where people pay for their own healthcare. But in a nationalised healthcare system, the costs are immense and unfair to the wider population. The effect of a 4% greater risk will not be linear on the NHS budgets but could be exponential because disorders such as Bardet Biedl lead to other problems such as obesity and its associated co-morbidities.

          2. Recently published Royal Society research shows that consanguinity increases the risk of infectious diseases such as Hep-C, TB etc in the offspring. This is thought to be due to inherited immune deficiencies. This is a not inconsiderable population risk. WHO’s disease burden analysis also suggests that a quarter of global deaths are down to infectious diseases.

          I did not cite any numbers but as far as risk is concerned, it is indeed sizeable.

          Perhaps a few deaths do not mean much in heavily populated countries but if they are avoidable, they mean a lot in public health and epidemiology discussions. I work in public health and related fields, and tend to agree with specialists in this field who think of the public health risk as sizeable.

          Thanks. Please also see Nita’s note below.

          • March 23, 2009 9:28 pm


            I meant Nita’s note above. Sorry.

            Also this may interest you. This is from a Wellcome Group funded research.

            Assessment of birth incidence data in British Pakistani populations shows that the risk of having a child with a congenital or genetic (including recessive) disorder is about 2% and it _doubles_ to about 4% for first-cousin couples, because of the increased risk of recessive disorders.

            Do pay attention to this. The research also found that for many British Pakistanis, the very idea of ‘genetic’ disease is unfamiliar, and competes with social, environmental and spiritual understandings of the causes of illness. The risks are not communicated across the close-knit communities either as people are reluctant to discuss their own ‘carrier’ status even after suffering the death of an infant child. The ‘shame’ system also means that ill children in the family could be hidden from those seeking data.

            You may also know that the health metrics in general of British Pakistanis (in whom consanguineous marriages are very common) are very poor. Societal problems mean that healthcare workers do not always have access to the families, parents or children to inform or educate them on the matter.

            Risk, as you know, is defined in terms of expected losses and the probability. It is also only meaningful in juxtaposition with risk propensities of the assessor of risk (in case of policy makers for instance).

            So of course people may disagree on risk but it is so contextually determined that it is a futile discussion unless framed in specifics. Thanks.

            • Naveen permalink
              March 24, 2009 1:47 am

              Shefaly, Thanks for your comment. I work in science too and have a belief that there is a strong bias in science these days. I don’t generally read the discussion or conclusion part of a peer-reviewed article. Because I feel, Science doesn’t need opinions but should stop with data and results. Moreover, I never understood, why it is always a Hindu researcher that ‘scientifically’ proves that overeating beef can cause cancer. Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so. Last year, millions of dollars were spent in the US to prove using ‘scientific’ methods that ‘praying had a positive impact on terminally ill patients’ -obviously by Republicans. This is exactly how history was manipulated through centuries. I think it is important to look at a problem with common sense first because science is not a religion and scientists are not divine. There is no doubt that there is a higher probability for autosomal recessive genes to pass in an intermarriage. Now, how much is the relative risk for disease and mortality? Very less. Thats a fact and everything else is bias. After cutting through all the hype, the question to be asked is: After centuries of intermarriage, are muslims and certain communities in India genetically vulnerable to more diseases that make a public health calamity? I personally don’t think so. Every genetic make-up has a disease to worry about. So would a group be better-off, if they marry outside and brought in other genes into the pool? No one can say for sure.

              Is loosing recessive genes over time, a very ‘healthy’ thing for a gene pool? Agricultural geneticists came out of the ‘Hybrid hype’ decades ago. They understood that recessive genes infact could have very ‘desirable’ traits. For example, they believe that the native varieties might have disease resistance to a particular disease that the hybrid varieties are not yet tested to. Visionary scientists built huge gene banks in every country. Infact, there is growing evidence that a recessive gene is found to have resistance to AIDS in a small African population. And the so-called ‘inferior’sickle cell anemia gene in Africa helped them get over the malaria disease, that killed millions world over. Someday, we will all realize that there is a cognitive limitation for us to look beyond the surface. For the record, I hate eugenics and designing babies should never be the criteria of a marriage.

              • nvs permalink
                October 23, 2013 10:43 pm

                I completely agree with u Naveen. I think it is the North Indians who feel extremely against cousin weddings may be due to the influence of the British & they had the habit of forcing their repressing moralities on us in order to “civilise” us !
                In South India, it is commonly accepted by every one. If going by urs & the comments of those who oppose consanguineous marriages, then its terrible after effects should be shown primarily among Keralites(followed marumakkathayam/matriarchy). On the contrary, they have the best health record in the country, even better than many Western countries ! The health levels among North Indian Hindus r horrendous, especially among women & children, is common knowledge as well. Then how does ur argument have any truth to it ? Regarding the Pakistanis, i think it is down to infrastructure & economic problems for those health problems.

  19. March 23, 2009 4:25 pm

    A sense of outrage is inevitable and justified too. Incest should have no place in our lives. It seems so completely unimaginable that somebody can think actually sexually abuse his own daughter for years on end.

    I guess man has fallen to such an extent that all this and more passes through and the victims have no option but to live in their own silent hell. There is clearly no social and religious sanction for this.

    This is a pointer to the mental depravity of the perpetrators and abetters. Any punishment that may eventually be given will fall short, but the courts must resort to exemplary sentences in this case. Law should act swiftly on this.

    Mavin, I think we are a very destructive species. – Nita.

  20. March 23, 2009 6:08 pm

    Child abuse is condemnable, I agree. Many of us experienced some kind of sexual abuse growing up, I know quite a lot of cases personally.

    But can making a law solve the problem? Children are easily accessible for use (rather, abuse) and in a society with conservative views on sex, such things will continue. Heck, they prevail even in western societies with liberal views.

    But what about consensual casual sex between two adults who happen to be related? If they want to get married, knowing about all the genetic disadvantages their child will have, its their decision. That is incest technically, but the law shouldn’t interfere in what consenting adults do.

    cheers, Priyank

    • March 23, 2009 8:25 pm

      Priyank, despite the title of the post, I have really written more about forced sex and child abuse, not consensual sex between two adults. And about the law, ofcourse there should be a law to prevent child sexual abuse and yes one to prevent incest too, for medical reasons. For example something to prevent mother and son marrying and father and daughter marrying, brothers and sisters marrying, stuff like that. That is the very basic thing that we need to have to prevent medical deformities. And from the moral point of view we need a law to prevent abuse of kids by guardians, including fathers. We can have a public debate on what is reasonable or not.

      • March 23, 2009 8:58 pm

        Nita, we agree on child abuse.

        However, I know a brother and sister who got married and have a healthy son. The law has no business to tell me how to prevent medical deformities. The word ‘moral’ is subjective and making such ‘moral’ laws that intrude into personal space only sets a trend. The next law will make same sex marriages illegal because many think its immoral.

        That said, I understand the spirit of your post and you’ll appreciate my concerns in making moral laws. 🙂

        • March 23, 2009 9:09 pm

          Hmm, I know what you mean Priyank, but you cannot compare this to same sex marriages prevention. Because do any father/daughter pair want to marry? Are brothers and sisters marrying a common thing? I do not know of a single case. Buut homosexual couples do want to marry. It’s very common. I do not think these issues are comparable.

  21. March 23, 2009 6:14 pm

    @ Nita : I am against the state interfering in sexual matters. So if consenting siblings etc are doing it, so what?

    It just happens that you find someone nearer than you think….

    • March 23, 2009 8:24 pm

      Odzer, I am not talking of consensual sex. I really don’t care what two consenting adults do. Yeah, even if a mother and son do it I don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect me personally. And ofcourse the law shouldn’t interfere if two people are doing perverted things together as long as they are not hurting each other and want to do it. The law I am talking about is one to prevent child abuse.

      • vasudev permalink
        March 23, 2009 8:42 pm

        [Yeah, even if a mother and son]

        sweet jesus!

        • March 23, 2009 8:46 pm

          Yeah Vasudev, there are people who are absolutely crazy out there. And what’s sick is that there are pornography sites which encourage this sick behavior! But ofcourse no one wants to do it openly like say marriage.

          • March 23, 2009 9:02 pm

            Oh, people do worse things inside their homes, such as marital rape, or treating women as second class citizens of the family, or tormenting their children with coaching classes. These things have long term impact. Lets resolve that first before we peep into what two consenting adults do, however crazy that sounds.

            • March 23, 2009 11:37 pm

              @ Nita : The issue is we can not ‘judge’ others. As for Child Rape…..What if a 16 year old and a 12 year old do it? Does it still constitute rape? These things are fairly more complex and have a wider range than we can imagine here.

              Human sexuality can not be ‘regulated’. So to say that one can legislate and eliminate kiddie sex is a bit unrealistic. After all Children are sexual beings as well even though they may have a different idea of sexuality than the so called ‘adults’.

              Odzer, I think you have got off the point here a wee bit don’t you think. I have certainly not mentioned anything about children having sex. – Nita.

              • March 24, 2009 12:34 pm

                @ Nita : I think for me it is all ‘related’. I think if there has to be a law at all regarding sexuality. It should be one single uniform ‘rape’ law irrespective of gender, age or sexuality. I also think rape should generally come under violent assault. Children or Women or Men are and can be victims. The title of your post suggest “Incest” is something that needs a separate law to combat it.

                In my experience most of Incest happens between young siblings, most of them are still called “children”. My point of view remains that there is no such need for any laws if people want to do it.

                • March 24, 2009 12:43 pm

                  Odzer, Nowhere in my title or post have I said that there needs to be a separate law to combat just incest. I have clearly said that in the rape by custodian law (which entails more punishment than ordinary rape) the father should be included. And if you are talking of two kids having sex voluntarily, that is an issue I have not discussed in this post.

              • March 24, 2009 11:07 pm


                This may be a bit off-topic; but Child Sexual Abuse is defined as abuse of a child by an adult – not about sexual relationships between children. If the victim is below 16 yrs of age and the abuser is over 16, it is considered as CSA.

                Coming to your point about such relationships between children: from what I have read, child specialists consider “mutual exploration” among near-adolescent children as normal behaviour. This of course does not include full-blown sexual relationships though.

  22. March 23, 2009 6:24 pm

    But if the consenting adult is a dependent – I think we need to keep in mind if they are actually in a position to refuse to consent.

  23. Milind Kher permalink
    March 23, 2009 9:57 pm

    Incest is something that is reprehensible primarily because the sex is not consensual, at least not purely so. That being the case, it tantamounts to rape.

    I personally do not believe in rape carrying a 15 year sentence. It has to be the death sentence.

    Regarding marriage with first cousins, the dangers thereof are usually exaggerated.

    What is the risk for having children with a problem when parents are close blood relatives?

    It is not true that those having a child with a blood relative have a very high chance that their children will have birth defects or a disabling condition.

    Where the parents have no family history of a specific condition and their parents and perhaps grandparents are not blood relatives:

    If parents are unrelated, their risk for having a child with a birth defect or disability is between 2% and 3% (2 to 3 out of every 100 births)
    If parents are first cousins, the risk is a little higher (about twice) ie. 5% to 6% (5 to 6 out of every 100 births). Looked at another way, where parents are first cousins, there is about a 95 chance out of 100 (95%) that they will have a baby unaffected by a condition due to the parents’ faulty genes

    • vasudev permalink
      March 23, 2009 11:09 pm


      i think i agree with you on the inter-relative marriage bit. for an example i will relate my own case. i married my father’s sister’s daughter. my father married his uncle’s daughter (my mother). my mother’s mother and my father’s uncle were also wife and husband. :)…quite confused, everybody? well that is how it works with nairs of kerala. mine is the third generation relationship in marriage between two households (my dad’s and my mom’s)…now you decide…(i have been with you all so long…any mental deficiencies you all notice? if you do, please don’t speak it out here…;) )

      being a nair as per our custom the first choice of approval/rejection lies with the first cousin (a man/woman can marry his/her mother’s brother’s or father’s sister’s daughter/son…never the paternal cousin. e.g. i cannot marry my father’s brother’s daughter).

      my children are quite normal so far (touch wood!) and they aren’t any lesser (mentally/physically) than their friends who were born out of different diverse mixtures.

      therefore what milind said has a very valid point. otherwise generations of nairs would have become walking, talking, handicapped idiots by now.

      • March 24, 2009 7:44 am

        vasudev, these things have been proven by science. It is possible that your line does not carry any genetic diseases. Genetic diseases and defects run in families. Anyway I am glad to know that you are fine. 😀

        • vasudev permalink
          March 24, 2009 11:45 am

          [Anyway I am glad to know that you are fine.]

          ahem! thanks for that compliment. you couldn’t say that about many, nowadays! 🙂

      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 24, 2009 9:24 am


        Arabs have been marrying their cousins for a long time now. It has not significantly affected them significantly.

        Statistics also plays a part. Defects occur when both the parents carry the same copy of defective gene. If that, for some statistical reason has NOT occurred, then the offspring will be as healthy as that of people unrelated.

        Read the book Genome by Matt Ridley. You will find it fascinating.

        • March 24, 2009 10:18 am

          Milind I have read that book and it is in fact on my bookshelf. However I cannot agree with you that children from same genetic pools are as healthy as those from non related genetic pools and I mean not individually but statistically. It is not just about obvious defects but even other genes. Now it is known that even obesity has a genetic component. Also there have been various studies even in Kerala and not all is good news. Here are some links to search results.
          I think its important to accept the fact that humans carry all sorts of not so good genes which are not just about obvious defects but predispositions to diseases. In fact whole populations have been known to susceptible to certain diseases. Medical data confirms this and it is not just about defects or mental retardation.
          If ofcourse people don’t care then it is another matter.

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 24, 2009 9:36 pm


            It is possible that people who marry consanguine relatives may have offspring which may be at a greater risk.

            However, WITHIN a family, if there is a known hereditary disease, it is easier to avoid it. Where a person outside the family is concerned, one may be unaware of the genetic predisposition and could get into a marriage where the partner could have a problematic gene.

            Interestingly, Charles Darwin, the man best placed to know about the survival of the fittest, married his first cousin, and had ten healthy offspring.

            So, theer is much to be said on either side.

            • vasudev permalink
              March 24, 2009 9:44 pm

              life started with incest. ask adam and eve.

            • March 25, 2009 7:47 am

              Milind, as you know I am not referring to individuals but groups and populations. You have agreed that there is a greater risk and well, that is a proven scientific fact.

            • March 25, 2009 8:34 pm

              That was interesting Naveen. However I am not sure whether they talk of one generation cousin marriages or 3-4 generations of cousin marriages.

        • vasudev permalink
          March 24, 2009 12:04 pm


          i entirely agree. (nita…i disagree 🙂 )

          of course, if one fears about genetic disorders creeping in there is no way an arranged marriage can ensure that it does not happen. a family can keep secret such things like epilepsy, for an example. two extremely brilliant colleagues of mine decided to get married (one a bengi and the other a maratha). the result wasn’t a super einstein but a duffer (mutations, i believe). so where is the security?

          therefore one can marry cousins and uncles as per what your culture says.

          history is rampant with tales of consorts(cleopatra proved this twice!). even the old testament has some hardcore xxx stories to relate on incest.

          i am not going that far. i personally feel it is a terrible sin to get into cohabitation with one’s own immediate blood relatives (not cousins…they aren’t ‘immediate blood relatives).

          incest definitions (

          Sexual relations between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom.

          The statutory crime of sexual relations with such a near relative.

          sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry (as between a parent and a child)

          Sexual relations between relatives who are forbidden by law to marry; for example, between father and daughter or mother and son.

          sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry; also : the crime of engaging in such sexual intercourse

          Sexual relations between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom.

          The statutory crime of sexual relations with such a near relative

        • nehru mantri permalink
          April 7, 2009 6:56 am


          Outwardly it might appear that Arabs may not have been so affected. But we do not know of the selection that has gone on before the present status quo. They however have widespread opium, tobacco, caffeine and other narcotic drugs like chat or khat abuse. Many among them are sex addicts in spite of a benevolent marital system. They are recluse, adamant beyond reason and highly introverted. There is total apathy in the population (looting after the gulf war) and the population as a whole is submissive internally to the point of hopelessness with very low motivation. Even their education system ie method of teaching through constant dinning down like the drilling of the Koran and forcing them to rote memory (India too) seems an obsessive compulsive disorder also reflected in politics via a single authoritarian ruler in each of the moslem states. Their legendary penchant for violence historically both within and outside of their borders from long ago when they were (I am not sure)almost close to France or England to the present day is yet to stop. When stressed neither for food (oil wealth) nor for a mate the aggression is inexplicable. Societies thus endowed have opened to other cultures. Their real fitness can only be measured if they are made to settle in new surroundings with stress they are unaccustomed to , I suppose. It also could be that consanguineous marriage initiated or resulted in the Arab societal make up we see today rather than the religious component as is normally assumed. Literally they are “one (very large) family”! Surely there is lot of genetics behind this. We should know this in the next couple of decades. Anyway good discussion.

          • khalilsawant permalink
            April 7, 2009 10:08 am


            Were you waiting all along to let this conversation steer towards your intent to muslim-bashing (under the garb of arab-bashing)
            I do not see how you arab-life-style-criticism above are related to incest in general.

            I do not particularly support first-cousin marriages.
            However such things are relatively more common, in societies with small numbers (where option may be more limited) more than societies with large numbers.

            Regarding Arabs, being one big family, the Jews are one big family too (and a smaller one too). Surprisingly that doesn’t stop them from being so successful as a community, due to any genetic dis-orders.

            • nehru mantri permalink
              April 7, 2009 7:34 pm


              Thanks for your reply and you were pretty mild. It looks mostly like that doesn’t it? Probably more like Arab bashing than muslim bashing since all the negatives are on display and even the negatives are “perceived” negatives generally by us humans. There are lots of positives like intelligence and patience (but patience can also be construed as passivity and inaction) which I did not mention but I guess someone has touched on it in passing. Intelligence and insanity are sometimes regarded as two sides of the same coin. Your point on the jews is correct. In fact a lot of jew families could have been from arab stock (and vice versa, who knows ) and the Punjabis who settled abroad are another clannish sect and so are the pockets of hindu castes. I am from the south in India and to my knowledge the muslims are highly disciplined and progressive except for tobacco use which is no different from the general population. But the whole thing could be nature or nurture or a combination of both. Jews are spread the world over and I wonder if your statement still is true. The ones in Israel are not really the same old. They are a more European and others mixed today in their pool. Nevertheless they must be doing their own studies. Addictive and compulsive behaviors have strong genetic components. Pooling of linked genes gets stronger as you cross from the same stock. That is how some of the high yielding varieties of crops were produced until recently (repeated backcross). As for success of Jews it has no meaning. Success genetically and in biology is when you have survived, grown and produced offspring. So technically the gita, koran and the bible are only helpful in helping one to survive, live and reproduce. A jew may work hard and save but it has no meaning if he ends up with a heart attack or does not have any children. He or she would have become biological failures. I hardly know Arab culture so how could I be bashing them? And even when I do bash something it is the deed or the thought and never the person itself. Any human is worthy by its presence and not its absence as some may wish. But thanks for bringing it up. I did expect that somebody was going to bring up flaws in this since the entire write up was from a very cursory thinking. So don’t go beat up your son because you are angry with me.

              • April 7, 2009 9:49 pm

                >> In fact a lot of jew families could have been from arab stock
                Nopes, Jews and Arabs are cousins by race, but separate
                >> Addictive and compulsive behaviors have strong genetic components ??
                I think we all know that drug and sex addiction(as mentioned in your last post) is pretty common in USA, yet I know USAns to be of very diverse European (not necessarily English) ancestry.
                >> As for success of Jews it has no meaning
                I took the Jewish case because close genetic in-breeding is generally associated with mind problems (as you said Addictive and compulsive behaviors), yet Jews are so successful, which is not just because of their hard work, but because they are inherently smart people (a pre-requisite for being successful as business community)
                >>So don’t go beat up your son because you are angry with me.
                You spoiled the comment with this

                PS : I don’t want to further debate if we are going off topic (of incest)

                • nehru mantri permalink
                  April 8, 2009 12:39 pm


                  Relax. The last line was just a joke. You don’t have to take the literal meaning though it is not fair of me to have a joke at your expense. So, sorry. Now to your points. Why (in your first post)do you have to jump and start with accusations instead of giving your line of argument first like in your second post. You are taking the easy way out by calling names. I could easily have said that you were waiting for an opportunity to find some racist bias to join in. would that be right? if you read carefully you will find that Milind mentioned Arabs and I continued in detail. The point is all the traits I mentioned are controlled by sets or pools of genes that are traceable now. More importantly I wanted to point out the presence of tens of physical characteristics which should be considered as part of genetic influence which fits in with our general discussion as not only incest but also close family marriage is being brought up.
                  1. Jews and Arabs are ‘genetic brothers . Here’s the reference
                  You seem so positive as if you know everything that happened under the crescent moon, sandstorms and in the shadows of the arabian night 3-4000 yrs ago?

                  Quote BBC article:The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that Jewish men shared a common set of genetic signatures with non-Jews from the Middle East, including Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese.

                  These signatures were significantly different from non-Jewish men outside of the Middle East. This means Jews and Arabs have more in common with each other, genetically speaking, than they do with any of the wider communities in which they might live.

                  2. Jews are successful. That is a myth. Depends on what success is. Arabs have been successful conquerers too. Depends on what you train for. Spend more time with books, telescope, Horse or with a sword. . All these are aimed at getting resources to have mates and have more progeny ultimately. Einstein did not jump from a horse into a lab. His parents were already there and he had spent a long time in physics before the Eureka moment.
                  3. Drug/sex addiction in the west.
                  My point is Arabs have multiple wives and a harem for many. Why sex addiction in addition to that? A lot of youngsters on drugs early in their youth have been very productive in later life here in spite of their exposure. Chronic addiction is more among poor generally here vs among rich in Arab states.

                  • Naveen permalink
                    April 8, 2009 8:57 pm

                    1. Jews and Arabs are ‘genetic brothers ‘.

                    You are right. I’ll give points on this. But I thought you were the one who said “They are a more European and others mixed today in their pool”.

                    2. Jews are successful.

                    Regarding your comment on Einstein, you are correct that environment plays a very important role. But I believe that Genetics do have a significant role. Irrespective of what you think, Jews are very successful by every standard in today’s society. 60 of Time 100 intellectuals are Jews and more than 50% of American Nobel Prize winners are Jews. You will be amazed if you calculate the Odds, which tends to make us believe the Genetics end of the theory.

                    ..Horse or with a sword..

                    If you think ‘muscle’ and ‘might’ have survival value, Sorry. Dinosaurs wouldn’t have gone extinct today, if that had any truth. And if your comment is relevant and wonder if girls are still looking for husbands with a sword in their hand, even in the Arab world. In the psychozoic era, it is proved time and again that intelligence has a huge biological advantage to survive.

                    3. Drug/sex addiction in the west.
                    Sex Addiction is an obsessive psychological condition that leads to mental agony with guilt, shame and depression. It is a medical condition with a lot of social problems associated with it. Genetically speaking, all addictions are a result of the same cluster of genes. Addictions in a society have phases of lows and highs that depends on a lot of other factors.

                    • nehru mantri permalink
                      April 9, 2009 11:03 am

                      A meteor impact is what caused Dinosaur extinction. Nothing, however big would have survived that and if the Dino’s did, we couldn’t be having this discussion. Jew’s case is cumulative result. Success breeds more success and on and on. Coke has a better chance of coming up with a new beverage than me in even time.

              • Naveen permalink
                April 7, 2009 11:38 pm

                Is it “cursory” thinking? or “repressive” psyche? or just a “compulsive” behavior? Anything it is, it is ‘racist’.

                • nehru mantri permalink
                  April 8, 2009 12:57 pm

                  You are saying so what, others have it too. But show me where all of that converges in a single tribe. Drugs in the west is from late 60’s only. Are you denying that my account up there is false?

                  • Naveen permalink
                    April 8, 2009 8:44 pm


                    I don’t know where you picked up your thoughts about Arabs. If thats something you picked up recently in the US, Conservative Americans have always had a pathological syndrome to hate different countries/races at different times. They have hated the American Indians, the Spanish, the Jews, the Italians, the Irish, the Africans, the Japanese, the Latinos, the Russians, the Chinese… Now it is the the turn of the Arabs. So without ‘hardly knowing’ the facts, don’t judge people. Because no one will come to your rescue, when it is your turn.

                    • nehru mantri permalink
                      April 9, 2009 10:22 am

                      Sorry, error. The last word in my post should read “true” instead of “false”. My collective impression of Arabs is over quite some time from hundreds of tiny bits of info. See BBC story on Qatar yesterday. Al Jazera purports to talk about the whole world with candor except about Qatar where it is based. My views on America is exactly the opposite. It is the rest that hold the grudge. America never says we will always rescue you (only when dire). Imagine if all oil contracts had gone to the Soviet Union in 1930. Islam would today be under the red sea. Strange as it may seem, America rescued Islam.

  24. March 23, 2009 10:04 pm


    I think I agree with Ankur Agarwal (comment #2). The 2 cases in question here, of course, were of incest; but I think the larger issue here is CSA (Child Sexual Abuse).

    I also agree with Solilo’s comment that abuse by guardian is incest i.e, the offender need not necessarily be a blood relation of the abused – its just that the victim is dependent on the perpetrator. For example, if a child in a school is abused by a teacher, or one in an NGO is abused by the caretaker – it should be considered as incest.

    I had just recovered from the shock (that everyone is sure to go through) after reading “Bitter Chocolate”, when this news came through. It is utterly despicable to say the least. Here is my review of the book.

    I completely agree with your views regarding (or disregarding) the law – it is hopelessly inadequate. But I think societal norms play an important part too. Like Pinki points out in Bitter Chocolate, a vast majority of the CSA cases (especially those where the victim is a girl) never come to light – because of the family honour and other such meaningless excuses.

    I would recommend one and all to read the book Bitter Chocolate. It details out several practical approaches to preventing such incidents – and also to counsel victims who have been through it. (Please feel free to edit out this para if you think it is not relevant to the subject!)

    The urgent need is not only to make the law more child-friendly, but to make society more sensitive to the sufferings of the children too. After all, they are the future of the country – and of the Earth!

    Kiran, Ankur feels that incest and rape/sexual exploitation by guardian/relatives which are 2 totally different issues and I am not sure why you feel so too. These two issues tend to overlap when rape/sexual exploitation is by the father/mother or by a step-parent (or even an uncle who is the guardian). The two cases I mentioned are about this overlap and as I mentioned also the broader issue here is certainly of child abuse. Sexual exploitation of a child by a guardian falls under child abuse as well. – Nita.

  25. Rashmi permalink
    March 23, 2009 10:21 pm

    Yes, it does happen in India and we , our society does to want to discuss this – we shun away even from its mention. Such subjects are such a taboo! Let me tell an incidence in my own house. During dinner every night, we do listen to news-hour debate happening on channels like Times now, Cnn-ibn. But on the day, when this case was being discussed on times now, suddenly TV went on mute! No one could openly listen or discuss such a taboo subject. that is when i realized the closeness of our society – we being part of it. If it is not possible to even listen to such debates publically, how and when it is going to be possible to have a healthy public debate and a solution , a stringent law to avoid these taboo topics?

    • March 24, 2009 9:32 pm

      Rashmi, in a family situation it can indeed get very uncomfortable as our elders are like this. I guess now it is up to the younger generation to change things. When you have your own family I am sure you will make the change.

  26. March 23, 2009 10:40 pm


    My apologies – I guess I misunderstood Ankur’s comment. I did not mean to say that these two are unrelated; what I was trying to convey is that incest is just a subset of CSA, and CSA is a larger issue to be dealt with (which again you have mentioned too).

  27. March 23, 2009 10:51 pm

    The society really needs to wake up to this evil. Mothers like the one implicated in the recent case need to speak up and put her child’s rights before her financial dependency.
    Stringent laws can not be effective without awareness and acceptance that there is indeed something wrong with “that uncle’s” or “that cousin’s” behaviour or seemingly harmless hug or touch.

    Reema, yes that I do agree with. Laws will have no teeth unless people themselves change. And discussing and making an issue of it is a start. – Nita.

    • ruSh.Me permalink
      March 24, 2009 2:30 pm

      I just sometimes wish, Indians were not so sexually-strangled….!!

      If we can’t handle it, how will we ever solve it???

      Sure we will solve it! As soon as our society becomes less closed and ofcourse when our justice system improves. – Nita.

  28. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 23, 2009 11:23 pm

    Nita, this is horrible news. I wonder how much trauma the kids must have undergone! I am sure incest is not a recent phenomenon(in India) like vasudev suggests. It happens in joint families(someone told me this), only no one complains. I am also uncomfortable with the idea of marriage between cousins or between uncle and niece, but then certain societies still continue the tradition and we cannot judge them.

    • vasudev permalink
      March 23, 2009 11:38 pm

      yo! i never suggested incest was what made me and what i did. you got the nair facts all thoroughly wrong.

      i think incest must have a new definition as below:

      ‘an act of fornication indulged in by blood relations of the same unit family’

    • March 24, 2009 7:40 am

      wishtobeanon, ofcourse incest is not a “modern” disease and in fact I was tempted to reply on this point to vasudev too but let it be. As I mentioned in my post I think incest is far more common in India due to various reasons and a whole lot of family members living in close proximity is a big reason for this. In fact I personally know two people (one 10 years old and the other 13) who were sexually abused (one by 25 year old cousin and the other by father’s younger brother) who were abused in joint families. I have also heard of a newly married acquaintance who was abused by brother in law (approval from husband). If anything incest flourishes in traditional societies where family “values” prevail and where women are afraid to speak up, one of the reasons being abandonment and lack of financial support. And also the other points I mentioned in my post.

      • March 24, 2009 8:26 am

        Nita, those are some sweeping generalizations about traditional family based simply on a couple of anecdotes. I’d be a little careful and go by data before reaching a conclusion like that.

        • March 24, 2009 8:32 am

          Amit, call it subjective if you will but I am a hundred percent sure of this. Call it simply my own belief. In fact I have said so. It is my belief. Surely we have all those? 🙂

          • March 25, 2009 10:45 am

            Of course Nita, everyone can have beliefs. But we don’t give much credence to beliefs that are not based on facts. And if the serious issue of incest needs public debate, then that debate needs to be honest and factual, and not based on beliefs.

            • March 25, 2009 10:50 am

              Amit I am not sure what you mean. Are you saying that I cannot have my opinion? Am I presenting a paper to the government on this issue or what? If I am I assure you I will refer to studies and research.

              • March 25, 2009 10:56 pm

                Nita, of course you can have your opinions. But if you present your opinion as a fact (“If anything incest flourishes in traditional societies..”) without any qualifiers, then in my opinion, that is somewhat irresponsible as a blogger and a writer whose posts are read by many.

                • March 26, 2009 8:05 am

                  Amit you have been deliberately provoking me and I can’t help but be surprised as you are a long time commentator. But I assure you that it is very irritating. If you had read my post this is what I said:

                  I personally believe that incest is more common in India than in some other countries as here there is no fear of the law.

                  Later the statement you picked out (conveniently ignoring my post) from a comment of mine (which is what you have quoted), an answer to wishtobeanon, which is clearly my opinion as comments usually are (particularly as wishtobeanon had read my post which you clearly haven’t). And you say that I said that it is a fact! I am really very disappointed at this attitude and twisting of the meaning of my post. One thing I expect from you Amit is fairness and I would appreciate it if you are fair. Just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t mean that you start attacking me as a person, calling me an irresponsible blogger! I am really shocked at your attitude.
                  Also I assure you that I will continue to give my opinions on this blog as it is my blog and if people read it and get influenced then I am very happy indeed. That is why I am blogging anyway, to give my opinions, so thank you for telling me that people get influenced by my opinions. I doubt whether a blogger writing his opinion on what he thinks Indian society is being irreponsible at all. That is one of the reasons why people blog. To give their opinions. And if you think I write posts without qualifying it, well some of the posts on this blog are simply my opinions and I always say so like I did in this case. If you want to twist it by saying that I said it is a fact then I am afraid I cannot do anything.

                  • Milind Kher permalink
                    March 26, 2009 8:57 am


                    Anybody with a purpose and wanting to do something significant will always encounter detractors and critics at some stage.

                    But never mind, there are a lot of people, including me, who think you are doing a great job. You have opinions, but are not opinionated. That is very good.

                    • March 26, 2009 9:24 am

                      Thanks Milind. I don’t mind a reasoned argument or differing views as any regular commentator knows and in fact I always welcome it. What I don’t like is when people twist my words and take a different meaning from what I intended.

                  • April 3, 2009 1:50 am


                    I had no intention of provoking you, and I did read your post and have respect for you and what you write – you know that.

                    My comment was strictly regarding your comment which I responded to, and it was clear that that’s what I was referring to, and not your entire post. So I didn’t ignore your post – conveniently or inconveniently. Anyway, moving on.

                    • April 3, 2009 8:53 am

                      Amit, I know that. I think you know that you have always been a favourite commentator with me and that is why I was hurt. Mostly I don’t care if someone writes like that. Coming from you, someone I consider a friend, it hurt. But anyway, moving on. 🙂

        • nehru mantri permalink
          April 2, 2009 12:01 pm

          Amit, all one has to do is visit a couple of open blog and chat rooms where rabid north vs south dialogues occur and the instant northern missives are always preceded with incest obsessed labels. The southerner is wise. He reserves such crap to dwell at length in prose and poetry narrating nuances of incest with no less venom in other places. So what does that tell about “us people”. We are all products of that repressive traditional culture which also “traditionally” bestows us a caste system with a falsely comforting, implicit and conniving “it’s good for you” threat. Now that is cerebral incest since obsessive subjugation has sex as its prime motivator. However not long ago you had sarcastically countered one of my views on data with “can also be argued to prove that smoking is good for you”…. the very same “data” you demand presently ? So is it the true colors showing or “traditional colors”, Amit ? George Will remarked on Salman Rushdie as one who loves India “from a safe distance”. I will say you love the traditional family……..”from a very safe distance”.

          • April 3, 2009 1:41 am

            Nehru Mantri,

            You forgot to mention sati, child marriage, Devdasi, arranged marriage and female foeticide, along with caste system. Usually, they all go together and are mentioned to control and obfuscate the debate. I’m quite familiar with that tactic.

            By the way, what have comments regarding north-south got to do here?

            As for my love of traditional family from a distance, again, asking for some data on which conclusions are based, does not imply love of traditional family. By the same token, is it your love of individualism and hatred of traditional family which is motivating your comment?

            If I were to take a position that incest doesn’t happen in Indian society (traditional and modern families) or that we shouldn’t discuss it, your point would’ve been valid. But, I don’t and haven’t taken that position. The title of this post is “Incest needs public debate..” and all I asked was for some data based on which public debate happens, instead of people going on with what they believe in. Drawing conclusions based on belief and without data is for traditional societies, not modern ones.

            Seems like an earlier comment of mine hurt you (I don’t remember which one) – though why should a discussion over interpretation of data be considered as sarcastic is beyond me – and you smelled blood and came for a bite. 🙂
            (You’re in good company – I had some disagreements with Milind too.)

            Do you really hold on to past like that? What will be next? Maybe you’ll come for a bite for another comment in a future post, for I remember we had differing opinions and disagreement over genetic food issue. What else is on your scoring sheet under my name? Let me know so that it gives me a little time to prepare myself. 😀

            • nehru mantri permalink
              April 6, 2009 7:25 am

              You enumerate additional egregious effects emanating from traditional family set up and then proceed to dismiss them as ploys used by proponents against traditional families. Is really all that it amounts to – as points in a pissing contest? . Trying to get data from households where such crimes are perpetrated are as easy as trying to get you to argue straight. You are opinionated and politicize everything to create a smokescreen. Your references seem to be from disenchanted individuals as yourself. You are the first in a conversation to launch labels_ “apologist”, “loony”……. yet can’t handle an inevitable one like “communist principles” against you. How else would you frame that word or say trade unionism. If that’s how you feel why should you be afraid to take a stance. Instead you feign insulted. Vijay Parshad according to you is a loony because he bares the hindutva connections of Obama’s Indian which you cannot accept. People will call you up on such lack of scruples and no doubt you will set your own trap as happened with Nita. As for data interpretation differences one cannot reinterpret published scientific data since each set of data is good under the conditions clearly set forth prior to experimentation. You may only argue or speculate on the variables_ why or why not…. but the original data stands until the experiment is repeated with other variables. I was quoting refereed journals while the best you came up with was Vogue. Enough said ? North-South is clear in my earlier post or refer to Sajan’s post below.On keeping scores, you were hoping that none notice didn’t you ?

              • April 6, 2009 8:16 pm

                nehru mantri,

                In your case, supporting Vijay Prashad (a leftist-communist) and supporting GMOs is consistent ideologically?? Hmmm…why don’t you think about that a bit? I don’t think your rant above deserves any more attention. Maybe try taking these blog discussions a little less seriously, and have a nice day.

                • nehru mantri permalink
                  April 7, 2009 10:18 am

                  If you could hmmm….. past your nose you would have thought about it before writing or shooting yourself in the foot yet again. Vijay prashad and the gmo issue may be ideologically at variance but both are consistent in their attempt at TRUTH and so both need to be considered equally in debate. They both have a very logical and cogent assembly of facts free of bias that it commands awe and respect. You diss both since they dont fit your views. Ironically a pretty far left leaning liberal like you can’t digest the prashad piece as it hits you right in the gut. Instead of debating the issues he raised or ignoring it, you deliberately label and trash him. It shows you are in denial of something which seems the bigger problem. The intriguing aspects of the super power rivalry was the irrefutable fact that both were in complete agreement in spite of ideological differences. Only their overriding interests kept them apart. But look at this. You want data as proof to defend the traditional family system unaware that that the individual (Nita) is also a part of the same traditional belief system and so you are defending and questioning her veracity simultaneously…….the perils of not taking this blog seriously, I would say. ciao.

                  • April 7, 2009 11:30 am

                    Amit, Nehru, let me clarify one thing. It is not a question of belief systems as much as the opportunity that a traditional family offers for incest. To me it seemed obvious because not only is there an opportunity, but an added belief in the sanctity of the family which can protect a rapist. But then again these are just my views. I may think them obvious but someone may not.
                    And Nehru, I think Amit meant not taking the argument in the comment section seriously. He has a point there. I often write my comments lightly, and am taken aback when someone wants a link to back it up! 🙂

                  • April 7, 2009 9:57 pm

                    the perils of not taking this blog seriously, I would say. ciao.

                    Ciao indeed! And don’t let the door hit you on the way out – that heavy burden of having monopoly on the “truth” can slow people down.

  29. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 23, 2009 11:47 pm

    Vasudev, I was referring to your first comment – ‘from pubs and fashions to incest.’

  30. March 24, 2009 7:48 pm

    Nita, this is a topic you know is close to my heart, and I didn’t have the courage to write about it in the context of the recent news stories.

    Child sexual abuse and incest is India’s best kept darkest secret.

    You have beautifully described the catalytic factors that contribute to this complex problem. I have a subjective (no disagreements please) skeptic opinion that enacting laws will not ‘solve’ the problem. However, it may minimize it, and it is certainly a first step if we are ever to make India safe for children.

    I myself have closely known a victim who was abused for several years by her father and uncle, and the psychological and widespread impacts are just devastating.

    • March 24, 2009 9:19 pm

      Mahendra, there is really nothing to disagree with what you said. A law never solves the problem, it is usually just the first step.

  31. March 24, 2009 8:20 pm

    this is a topic which is sure has to be risen in all societies around the world (as the problem exists obviously everywhere), and it is great that you post stimulates such a debate!

    I don’t know if you have heard about the recent case here in Austria:
    The Fritzl case emerged in April 2008 when a 42-year-old woman, Elisabeth Fritzl (born1966), stated to police in the town of Amstetten in Austria that she had been held captive for 24 years in a concealed part of the basement of the family home by her father, Josef Fritzl (born 1935), and that he had physically assaulted, sexually abused, and raped her numerous times during her imprisonment. The incestuous relationship forced upon her by her father had resulted in the birth of seven children and one miscarriage.

    That is really one of the most horrbile things in the world.. And happend not in India! I mean things like that can happen everywhere, unfortunately. Just unthinkable.

    Axinia, like you said, these things are not peculiar to any country. There are pervs everywhere and it is up to the law to catch and punish them. – Nita.

  32. March 24, 2009 11:10 pm

    i was horrified to read the story nita
    how can somebody be so inhuman and that too to his /her own child?
    punish such parents……………hang them to death because they deserve it

  33. March 30, 2009 11:51 pm

    Here is an article about incest, I placed my trust in reporter Malay Desai, and he did absolute justice.

    I am a survivor of incest. I was raped when I was 7 by my maternal uncle. I had my share of lows. But now, i have my head firmly on my shoulder and my chin up.

    I wish people who have survived Child sexual abuse speak up. So that people take notice and understand that it is not one stray incidence in one corner of Bombay. But something that could happen in your house or your neighbourhood.

    • March 31, 2009 7:28 am

      Harish, what you have recounted is a tale of sheer horror. You are not to blame at all, but you have probably realised that now. In our society close relatives have access to children and it makes it easier for them to rape. Glad to know you are fine now.

  34. March 31, 2009 6:00 pm

    I don’t think that the suggestion of astrologer is the sole reason for above mentioned incestuous rape. Astrology is not supported by science. It is just a belief. If astrologer tells fortune about ten points, 2 or 3 of them may happen true. I don’t think that there are people who easily fall in the trap of such flawful beliefs. Perversion of the father may be main reason for those incestuous rapes.

  35. roopak permalink
    April 2, 2009 12:26 am

    I think the problem with our society is that most of the time we mix several issue. If we talk about present events, i don’t think we need to ponder about incest laws coz weather incest is legitimate or not varies from culture to culture and country to country-and infact is debatable-, but make no mistake about it, that even in countries where incest is legal( France and Japan to name a few)both the persons who are getting into incest should be adult so that their consent to the relationship is valid.
    As far as present events are concerned, they should be seen as cases of child abuse(or sex abuse if the victim is an adult).
    We as indians are obsessed with citing lack of laws but at the end of the day its about lack of implementation of the existing laws.

  36. R.Sajan permalink
    April 4, 2009 10:24 pm

    Incest porn the most popular variety of pornography in India. Look at Indian porn sites. Look at the authors in other sites. Most of the incest-writers are Indians.
    Does this have any clinical significance?

  37. April 6, 2009 7:37 pm

    That is a variety of mental sickness that need psychiatric therapy.

  38. darren permalink
    June 13, 2009 1:09 am

    kudos to nita,
    i am a victim myself. wish somebody would ask me what it feels when the darkness falls, when silence grows oppressive and the torture begins. At first, it was pleasurable. Later, I learnt to question why it has to be kept hidden

  39. August 2, 2010 5:25 pm

    Incest is a bigest sin ever and big crime protect your family
    because its disgusting and shamefull and aganest law
    naver try to make incest

  40. November 2, 2012 8:37 pm

    almost every boy and every girl in india is abused before they even start school. a lot of people want to deny that and its got nothing to do with india as such, but it has to do with the shameful culture indians put up. india is never safe for any child. the official rate is 70% of indians children are abused before they are 18, and thats OFFICIAL. its a joke, because that simply means in reality every single child is abused. they all have to live with the devastating mental illnesses that come with child abuse and most of them simply abuse again instead of dealing with reality.


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