Here are some more extracts from Bitter Chocolate.
‘What can it be called,’ she [Vidya Apte of Terre des Hommes] asks, ‘when they marry off young girls, except Child Sexual Abuse?’ A socially sanctioned environment which crushes the girl-child as she grows: that mother hood can be her only mission, that she therefore has to be ‘married off’ at the soonest possible legal age even if she is not mentally or emotionally ready for it. What kind of mother can such a child herself make? Most research clearly states that men do not have an in-built ‘father touch’, they have to actively work on it if they genuinely want to be decent fathers. Young men—nor older ones, for that matter—are not expected to be fathers in the complete sense anyway. But young mothers are expected to ‘mother’ from the time they are born. Most research also proves that ‘natural motherhood’ is a myth, there is no such thing as ‘mother pangs’, except for social pressure. A woman feels ‘motherly’ only from the third or fourth month of her pregnancy and this is a primal feel which continues for the infant’s food and physical protection. There is no other in-built manual on child-rearing in a young mother who is otherwise bewildered, exhausted and very alone. What kind of ‘complete’ mother can she make to another child?
‘From childhood women are geing primed to expect too much from marriage and motherhood and too little from anything else,’ says Prasanne Invally of Susamvaad which is developing ‘marriage workshops’ in Marathi. ‘Boy children are primed to expect everything from their wives in the marriage, and not give too much if anything at all.’ The workshops Susamvaad has conducted till now reveal young couples—about to get married—coming in with ‘they lived happily ever after’ dreams because the partner is being expected to heavily ‘adjust’.
Explains Dr Shalini Bharat of the Family Studies unit of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, ‘We have a sacrosanct view of the family in our country, even if it teems with strains within. In such a structure human rights are not regarded as rights in the individual sense. There is a “we”, but if you hear an “I” the reaction is knee-jerk even if there is only negativity in this “we-ness”. Everyone is supposed to subsume their own individuality in a family, specially the women and definitely the children. Those who want to be an “I”, as is the wont of the young males, have to do it outside their family structure and home. This leads to our famous Indian characteristic: the duality-and-denial syndrome. Ghar mein kuch, bahar kuch; like being “vegetarian at home”. In such an environment it would be well-nigh impossible to get a family to admit that there is a horror like Child Sexual Abuse happening within the four walls of any house no matter how educated or rich or perhaps more so because the social image of the family has to be guarded. If we acknowledge Child Sexual Abuse in our middle and upper-class homes, we would have to look for reasons for this abuse within. We would then have to admit that these reasons are not as terribly complex as we would like to think. And we cannot have our families being seen as anything less than part of a great and ancient culture, can we now?’
[…]First there will have to be acceptance of the very existance of Child Sexual Abuse in all classes of Indian homes. And this acceptance is likely to take a very long time to come because if there is such an acceptance, it would affirm that there are a lot of adults abusing children. And then this would start to say something about Indian society. And its false facade of happy families. And the men in these families. And the kind of women who live with these men.
The world over fathers who have been sexually abused when they were little boys tend to sexually abuse children, their own and others, as adults.
Mothers subconsciously try very hard not to sexually abuse children, their own or others, even if they have been sexually abused when they were little girls. Instead women, specially mothers, take it out on themselves. They also physically abuse the child with slaps and other forms of beatings. They emotionally neglect them by mentally ‘blanking out’ their children from time-to-time; this space which the mother puts between her and her offspring is seen by psychiatrists as a desire on the part of the mother not to hurt her children the way she was hurt by her elders.
Well, has there ever been a time when fathers, along with their wives, have not impressed upon their sons, almost conditioned them into thinking, that they—the male—possess that magnificent trump card: the power of choice? Mothers tell their daughters only this: the male will come and choose from a sea of simpering young girls like you; on a white charger he will come and whisk you off your feet, please perfect the art of simpering till he arrives.
The male and his magnificent trump card: that power of choice. So now, before he ‘settles down’, and even during and after, he also chooses little boys. But will this be enough proof for the parents of young males that they need to explain to their sons that they need to behave with other mothers’ daughters, and other people’s sons too? If those parents had done this before, maybe the statistics would not be as bad as they are today? And now that the world is turning on its head, or so it may seem to the parents of only sons, with older—and much elder—men actively seeking little boys, what should the mothers and daughters feel?
Prema is now a child-prostitute in Calcutta’s Sonagaachi. She is not plump anymore, she has several sexual diseases including Aids. She says she never complained against her inspector-father at the police station because she knew they would suspend him and then what would her stepbrother, stepsister and stepmother eat?
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- India, Women, Men [en] (2013)
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- Coming Out as Single and Childless [en] (2015)