By Shivam Tripathi:
It’s almost been more than 10 years. It was during summer vacations. I had gotten bored of watching TV. So, I had decided to go outside for a bicycle ride. I lived in a Police Colony, the campus had many old offices. I was only 8; at that age children are supposed to be very curious, they want to know everything. I was no exception. I remember seeing an old police headquarter that was not in use anymore. I peeped through the holes but was unable to see anything. I was very small to look through the window. A man saw me (A retired Army officer who was under training in the police academy. He was as old as my father, I guess). I often noticed him asking my father for suggestions regarding legal issues. Just a mere acquaintance. He came near me and asked me,“Do you want to look inside?”, in a very gentle manner. I was very shy back then. I replied,“Yes, I want to look what is inside!” He held me up and I managed to look through the window. After a few seconds, I felt something hard on my back. It was him trying to push his penis and hitting my back repeatedly.
I was not mature enough to understand what was happening. Also, I was too young to decide whether it was good or bad. I requested him to leave me. I told him in an awkward manner,“I want to go home, Mom would be waiting for me”. But he denied, he held me hard and then harder. Anyhow, I escaped from there. At that time, only one thing was running inside my mind,“What was he trying to do and why?”.
I told this incident to one of my confidants. He laughed like I had told him a joke. He started making fun of me. I am not blaming him. He too was as young as I was. But I wanted him to understand my condition. That way, I could have mustered up the courage to tell this to my parents.
After 10 years I shared this incident with my hostel group when a serious discussion was going on about sexual abuse. I shared everything that had happened to me. We were 7 guys, sharing our experiences. 5 of us had experiences sexual harassments. I thought I could not speak up because I was a child. But what happened to my friend, was really ‘abrupt’, to say the least. He was 18 and had gone for a haircut and a massage. After he got his haircut, he was asked to go into the massage cabin, the barber asked him to lift his T-shirt and then knowingly slipped his hand inside my friend’s trousers and touched his private parts.
There are many incidents of child sexual abuse in India. It can happen at school, at work place, at home, anywhere. The main problem behind this is lack of education. Sex education should be there as a mandatory subject in school. I know, most of the guardians do not want sex education as they think it is ‘unethical’ to teach ‘immature minds’ about sex.
When I was young, I had asked my father what rape was. Instead of describing me the clear and exact meaning of ‘rape’, he coaxed around. Generally, parents hesitate to talk about sex to their children. I think they are unaware of children’s umpteen level of curiosity regarding sex. But what the children have is half baked knowledge. Proper vigilance from the parents’ side can stop the subconscious victimisation of children. Parents should give their children proper and sufficient time to interact and understand each other.
How can sex education bring changes to the society? Why do parents think that sex education is ‘unethical’ ? When I asked this question to my father recently, he told me.“You were too young (not adult) to know about sex and all.” Many children are inquisitive about where babies come from? The answers they get are really amusing. They are told, “God sent you to your mother’s womb”, or similar things. Parents can see how curious their children are but they hesitate to tell them the reality.
When children grow up together in a family, they often ask why their sex organs (they use some other word to explain sex-organ, something that their parents teach them to avoid talking about ‘sex’) look different. And as usual, parents do not have any straight answer to that. They think that their children are too young to be taught about these things.
I agree. It is true. I am not saying that a newborn child should know these things. But a child, who is growing up, must be told or taught about these things at a certain age. And as the child gets matured day by day, the basic information needs to be changed into advanced information. In every different stage of an individual’s life, the individual learns different aspects of sex. Learning about sex or any kind of bodily – physical and mental pleasure is a long process, and not something that you can learn in a day. So, it should happen accordingly and gradually. If children are not learning sex education at school, it is their parents’ duty to teach them the basic information (and later, advanced information too) about sex.
According to Sigmund Freud, anything that gives you pleasure is sex, even when we see a year old baby satisfyingly sucking or biting. To Freud, this behaviour suggested that the mouth is the primary site of a kind of sexual pleasure. According to Freudian theory, at about age 3, children begin to develop sexual arousal towards their parents. A male child develops feelings towards his mother and a female child towards her father. But both the situations are different. Girls develop sexual feelings toward their fathers and begin to experience penis envy. That means that they wish they had the anatomical part that is missing in them. Children too need sexual pleasure but their means of satisfying themselves are different.
Even when we talk about breastfeeding, our society thinks that it is not normal. So, what happens? A mother has to go into a toilet to feed her child. If your friend invites you for lunch at a public toilet, would you like that? Of course not. Then why should a child face such a problem?
Most of us may have heard about the Brazilian Minister Manuela D’Avila who breastfed her baby while putting forth her stand in National Assembly, Brazil’s Parliament. Why does our society not understand that these things are normal?
Can talking about sex be normalised in our country? Sexual urges may arise and it is natural. Natural processes cannot be controlled and locked up. Teaching about sex does not mean that there is a rise or a diminution of sex-drive in an individual. Children do watch porn, they do masturbate and it does not mean that their sexual urges are becoming less or more. It does not effect at all, it is normal. And if sex education is not given, it would be a problem for all of us. We have to change our mentality. Because sex education is important for children of different ages and it creates a better and a healthy world. Many organisations like Tarshi, who have been working on sexual issues, published books like The Red Book and The Blue Book too, for the age of 10-14 and 15+ respectively. These books can be really helpful for children of these ages. It is really time that we inculcate sex education, necessarily to break certain social taboos.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.