Child Incestuous Abuse: A Conversation We Are Never Ready to Have

“Aaj chocolate nai laye Shukla Tai Ji? Kaha dengey chocolate? Yaha ya bathroom mai? Yaad nai aa raha? Mai yaad karati hoon. Meri princess, duniya ki sabse khoobsurat ladki hai meri bachi. Yaad aaya? Apne haath sey mera Mooh daba kar band kar dete the, taki meri cheekh bahar naa nikale. Jo mai chillati thi, jo mai uss pain mai chikhti thi, vo bahar naa nikale, koi sunn na ley, issliye zoor sey dabate the, shhhh. Bathroom mai, baar baar, naal chala kar chikhti thi, nochti thi, magar voh haath tha naa mooh ke upar, daab gayi cheekh,” ~ Veera Tripathi from Highway.

In India, ninety per cent of the rapes are committed by the people known to the victim, says the report of the National Crime Records Bureau. Outrageous, Isn’t it? The society we are living in considers the mating of primary kins as an incest taboo, but do they really mean it? Incest with a child means having a sexual relationship with a child of your own family. It is no less than Rape or child sexual abuse. However, there is still no proper law acknowledging this heinous crime. The more shocking aspect remains the awfully low reporting of such crimes. The families often keep it confidential so as to avoid any injury to their reputation. Alarmingly problematic priorities.

The Enablers

It is devastating for a child to be crushed under the feet of such devils. The unresponsiveness of families and relevant institutions have enabled the abuse to continue for decades. Explicitly or implicitly. Children remain unaware and immature to understand the nature of such acts. Until much later when they are grappled by post-traumatic disorder or other such mental illnesses; as well as another plethora of problems they face in socializing or their personal relationships.

Home or Hell?

“There’s no place like home”- probably because of the comfort and safety it offers. Ever wondered about the children who fear going home? For them, the home is no less than a horror house. They are exploited physically, mentally and sexually by their very own relatives. There are dire consequences of such acts. It might lead to pregnancy at an earlier age, genetic mutations and slow or no mental and intellectual development of a child. A movie namely, State v. Malti Mashke gives an apt idea about incestuous abuse damaging the development of mental faculties.

To ensure social distancing families have barely left their houses since the lockdown has been imposed. It is even more dangerous for the children victim of incest to stay at home. According to the reports of The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there is a rise in the number of child sexual abuse cases amidst lockdown. Statistically, there stands a greater chance of recovery from COVID-19 than from sexual abuse suffered by a child. To elaborate, the recovery rate of COVID-19 is around 30%; while for sexual abuse, it is around 15%.

Consensual Incest

Incest is wrong and bad in science, yet there are cases of consensual incest; often a result of manipulation or force. In 2010, 46-year-old Columbia University professor David Epstein was charged with one count of third-degree incest after being accused of having consensual sex with his 24-year-old daughter. The daughter faced no charges because, in the eyes of the law, children are considered a “protected class,” even when they’re above the age of consent. Such cases are evident in India as well. Recently in February, the Bombay High Court awarded rigorous imprisonment of twelve years to the maternal uncle for impregnating a thirteen-year-old girl.

Inbreeding results in multiple genetic problems. The Spanish Kings are an epitome of the same. Throughout the ages, incest among royal families was common and even encouraged in order to retain the purity of the bloodline. For two centuries, the Spanish Habsburg dynasty refused to share their power with outsiders, so they continued to inbreed with one another. This practice eventually led to their downfall in 1700, when King Charles II died without an heir.

What Legal Protection is available to an Incest Victim in India?

Incest is a grey area in Indian law. There is no penal provision which explicitly deals with incest as an offence. The perpetrators of incest are dealt with under certain penal provisions. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 introduced amendments in the Indian Penal Code. Sexual intercourse with a woman below the age of 18 years is considered rape. It is immaterial whether it was consensual or not. The perpetrators are punished under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. Moreover, Section 376(2)(f) punishes a relative, guardian, or any person in the position of trust for committing rape on the woman. Adding to it, Section 376AB punishes for raping a child under the age of twelve. The punishment is rigorous imprisonment of twenty years which may extend to imprisonment for life and fine or death.

Furthermore, Section 354 and Section 354A provide punishments for the cases of outraging the modesty and sexual harassment respectively. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act also provides protection to children from such offences. To avoid the chances of incest, The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 prohibits the relationship between Adoptive family and the Biological family of the child.

Are Laws Enough?

Nonetheless, legal provisions are deterrent, not preventive. Of course, justice is sought after a wrong has been committed and manages to present itself before a court of law. However, the prevention and reporting of such a wrong remain in the hands of society.  It is important to dispel the incest taboo. Families need to step forward and report such cases, in order to protect their children from further abuse; or at least from suffering in silence.

On part of the victim, an enormous amount of shame remains attached to such an experience. Therefore, they fail to reach out to anyone; and more often than not, the children who do reach out face an aggressive or defensive reaction. Pushing them back into their shells. No penalty or punishment is sufficient to justify such a brutal act. Albeit education remains an important instrument to deal with the issue yet it is not sufficient alone to cope up with it. Talking to your child, creating more awareness, reaching out when you have suffered: That’s needed. Every time you suffer in silence a new victim is born: Speak up!

About the Author

Shriya Kataria
A writer by day and a reader by night. I am a Lawyer in making and a lifelong humanitarian. My enthusiasm for content writing and public speaking is real and undeniable. When not writing, I'm either painting or busy with my slam poetry.

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