This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Book Review: “Bitter Chocolate – Child Sexual Abuse in India” by Pinki Virani

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Kiran Rao

Bitter Chocolate is a book which is sure to shock the reader at every each and every page flip. The book deals with Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in India. Through this book, the author Pinki Virani shatters every myth regarding CSA, and jolts the reader out of complacency regarding the issue. She explains the effects of such abuse on the child, and proceeds to offer suggestions — for prevention, as well as to deal with abuse. This book considers as CSA, cases where the abuser is more than sixteen years of age, and the abused is less than sixteen.

Bitter Chocolate is split up into three “notebooks”.


Notebook 1 starts off with an account of the author’s own childhood experience. It then touches upon scores of instances of CSA from all across the country, cutting across social strata (both of the victim and the perpetrator) and age of the victim. There are some instances where the abused is too young to even know she has been abused! Some of the accounts were disgusting enough to make me question the very notion of “humanity”. Sample this:

1.A lot of cases of CSA occur within the house of the child, at the hands of a person known to the child.

2.Boys are the target of the abusers too — and we are not talking of a one-off case here. Far more little boys are sodomized than one can imagine.

3.There have been cases of women being perpetrators (although this forms a small percentage)

4.Only a negligible minority of the perpetrators are actually “suffering” and need “treatment” (referring to pedophilia — which is an excuse often used by child abusers to get away).

5.Yes, the driver, lift-man, security guard at school might be looked at suspiciously, and the child might be warned to be cautious of such people. But what if the abuser is a person who, ostensibly, is supposed to protect the child? What if the child is violated by uncles, teachers, grandfathers, older cousins, family friends, even brothers and most shocking of all — fathers? This is not all that rare — as Pinki details out in the book. People who are gentle, caring and smiling by day — turn predators when they find themselves alone with the child.

The sickest of all factors mentioned in the previous point is that the child is often abused by the very person who the child is totally dependent on! That’s the irony.

1.In many cases, the abuse does come to the notice of the family members of the child — but they often do nothing about it. Reason? Our twisted notion of the “Khaandaani Izzat” (family honor) measured solely by the “purity” of its girl child. The boy victim is luckier in this respect, as the family’s honor does not rest on his shoulders, and it is more probable that something will be done about it when his case comes to light.

2.In a vast majority of the cases, the victim feels guilty that (s)he was responsible for what happened. And family/society does nothing to dispel this guilt. How blood-boilingly revulsive is that?

3.Child prostitution and child pornography are more widespread that one might be led to believe.

This list is just an indication of what to expect from the book. It is difficult to control oneself while reading some of the examples — I often found myself closing the book in disgust or choking or wiping a tear from my eye.


Notebook 2
undertakes a long-term study of a couple of real-life stories, thereby examining the effects of CSA on a victim. It explains the short-term and long-term effects of CSA, and how it has the potential to destroy a person’s life — forever. Some of the effects mentioned include:

1.Physical scars and emotional insecurity (these short-term effects are pretty obvious)

2.Confused sexuality, promiscuous behavior on part of the victim (this is a long-term effect where the victim might experiment with homosexuality/multiple partners in an attempt to “erase” the memory of the abuse).

3.Problems in family life, including emotional and sexual problems

4.Most destructive of all, the abused may turn predator in the long run, and when the child grows up, (s)he may end up abusing a child in turn.

The book goes on to cite the opinions of several counselors, doctors, child psychologists on this matter. The bottom line is: CSA devastates a child and this devastation can manifest itself much later in the life of the victim.


Notebook 3 comes round to providing approaches to prevention of CSA. But not before it touches upon the reasons the abusers have a free run in India:

1.For one, the laws pertaining to CSA in India are grossly inadequate. Only rape (as in, penetration) carries any significant punishment.

2.Secondly, the abusers are probably aware that there are very small chances of the truth coming out into the open. Even if it does, our notion of family pride ensures that everything will be hushed-up and the abuser is free to go find his(/her) next target.

3.The book provides examples where a judge simply refused to believe that a grandfather was abusing his granddaughter. This shows how skewed the upholders of the law are with respect to the issue of CSA.

4.Finally, the abuser is aware that even if a case gets to court, it is an extremely uphill task for the family of the child to prove anything. The child will have to be produced in court and will be cross-examined. It is definitely easy to confuse a child during cross-examination.

Pinki Virani goes on to provide several practical approaches to tackle the menace. These revolve around the idea that if the perpetrators of CSA are brought to book, then it could help partly in discouraging such despicable acts in the future. The approaches include

1.Tougher, and clearer laws dealing with CSA — starting with the proper definition, to increasing the punishment.

2.Child-friendly process to deal with the matter (for example, the child not having to be repeatedly cross-examined and explain the harrowing experience several times, in graphic detail, to complete strangers).

3.Child Protection Units (to counsel the victim of abuse) and Child Protection Courts (to handle all cases where the victim is a child).
4.But above all, Pinki pins the hope on responsible parenting. This includes

4/1.providing an open atmosphere at home so that the child is not hesitant to speak out is (s)he is abused,

4/2.being aware of what the child is up to, where (s)he is and such, and

4/3.most importantly, dealing with disclosure appropriately (without blaming the child for what happened).

I have just summarized some of the points — the author goes into the nitty-gritties of each of these factors.


1.Yes — Bitter Chocolate is hard-hitting.

2.Yes — At times, you’d rather just quit reading the book.

3.Yes — the book will definitely give you several sleepless nights.

4.Yes — at times, the extremely graphic descriptions might be just too much to take.

In spite of all this, I still recommend one and all to read this book. For the simple reason, that unless one reads this book, one will not really grasp the magnitude of the menace. It is human nature that unless something shocks us beyond imagination, we treat it as just one of those things. If I had just read a statement that CSA does take place — I might not have reacted as strongly as I am now doing after reading the book.

Bitter Chocolate is a must read.


My Personal Views on the topic:

It is my belief that an adult who sexually abuses a child does not even qualify as a human. CSA is the lowest to which humanity can stoop. Of course it has to stop. But the issue is definitely a complex one. For example, in the case where a person who is supposed to provide for the child (shelter, food) himself resorts to sexually abusing the child, there is no easy solution.

I agree with most of the approaches outlined in The Bitter Chocolate — both for prevention of CSA and to deal with it. However, something does not seem right.

1.Making sure the child is aware is a good thing — but then, at what age does one begin educating the child about CSA? The book highlights a case where a girl was abused even before she uttered her first word!

2.Educating school-going children to be wary of strangers is a good thing — but what good would children be if they are not .. well .. children? I’m not sure if it’s a good thing if a child is suspicious of everyone and everything.

3.Early adolescence is an even more difficult time to explain about CSA. There is every possibility that the child loses the distinction between a good touch and a bad touch — thereby treating every touch as a bad one. So, we end up with a case where a child has never been sexually abused, but still tunes out of love and sex completely. Its almost like the child has been frightened into this emotional situation.

I completely agree with the author regarding the urgent need for the law to be reformed to be more child-friendly. Child Protection Units and Child Protection Courts are definitely bound to be effective.

To conclude, I think that it is the responsibility of every citizen to raise our voice against this most heinous of crimes, to work towards its prevention, and to push for reform. Remember, children are our future citizens. What kind of country would it be, where a staggering 40% of the girls and 25% of the boys have, at some point of time in the past, been sexually abused as children?


As a footnote — CSA is by no means purely an Indian phenomenon — nor is it restricted only to poor and developing countries. It exists everywhere. USA is struggling to contain child pornography and some other countries like Cambodia are waging a battle against child prostitution. The entire world is violating its children — and the responsible citizens of the world have to come together to eradicate CSA once and for all.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ishleen

    hi! Kiran ..i agree with every word of yours…but you know the problem is people don’t understand …
    they either take it as a horror and dun understand it or otherwise they take it as just another bad dream of a child ..they dun understand its gravity ..
    and this really hurts as they are unable to understand sometimes theis own child’s plight…

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Apurva Chavhan

By Yash Johri

By Aulina Pandey

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below