Selective Outrage Against Abuse: Beti Bachao, Beta Ko Bhool Jao?
How are we dividing our outrage selectively based on the gender of the child?
How are we dividing our outrage selectively based on the gender of the child? (Photo: iStock)

Selective Outrage Against Abuse: Beti Bachao, Beta Ko Bhool Jao?

Mard ko dard nahi hota” said Amitabh Bachchan in Mard and added to the things that have become the symbol of machismo in our country. For male child sex abuse survivors like me, who were surviving the trauma everyday of our lives, this added another layer of vulnerability because we were not supposed to cry or complain of pain. We were expected to be fighters and warriors and guardians and protectors.

However, in 2007, the Ministry of Woman And Child Development conducted a research on child sexual abuse and found out that more boys were abused than girls. I hate to reduce children to statistical figures. However, to depict the enormity of the challenge we are facing, it would be important to state that every second child could be a survivor of child sexual abuse. Again, let me reiterate, more boys than girls. The recent ordinance that confirms for death penalty for child rapists actually only stands for rapists of girls.

I would like to state that I principally stand against death penalty. Death penalty is not a deterrent for rapists but serves as a good band-aid mechanism to satiate the need for reforms by a nation that is hungry for some strict action. However, how does death penalty ever reduce rape when rapists know how to evade the law? Read about this here.

Also Read : Why Rape Culture Won’t Stop With the Death Penalty

But now that the BJP believes that death penalty should be imposed for rape of children, I am appalled by their idea that there could be a division of the trauma of abuse based on the sex of the child.

There Are Many Cases of Male Child Sexual Abuse That Go Unnoticed

What angers me more than their appeasement is that recently, in the Ryan International School case, there were initial reports by the father of the 6-year-old boy who was sexually abused that there were cotton on the private parts of the child.

We have had cases where there have been sexual assault and bullying of boys in elite Mumbai schools. A class 6 male student was sexually assaulted and is living in constant fear of his perpetrator and has found no support from school authorities. Just this year, a 13-year-old school boy was dragged to the yoga room of his school and sexually abused by a person who was wearing a mask.

These are some cases that get reported.

There are scores and scores of cases that go unnoticed and unreported. They would never make it to the newspapers. Most of these cases that get reported also don’t get the same amount of outrage as a victim of female child sexual abuse does. Children are innocent and vulnerable equally. How are we dividing our outrage selectively based on the gender of the child?
Studies suggest that if a child exhibits sexually explicit behaviour, there is a high chance of them being victims of abuse themselves.
Studies suggest that if a child exhibits sexually explicit behaviour, there is a high chance of them being victims of abuse themselves.

Situation-Based Outrage Without Taking Research Into Consideration

The anger is valid. The anger is much needed. Our guts need to be wrenched and our hearts need to be moist with the tears of the 8-year-old child who was tortured, raped and killed. For survivors of child sexual abuse - that accounts to almost half our nation - it means recounting the feeling of helplessness. But our responses should be more calibrated than just asking for band-aid solutions.

Research reveals that boys are more abused than girls. A recent study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry draws the conclusion that “Patriarchy is oppressing male children and acts as a barrier to seek psychiatric help in collaborative child response unit”. One of the case studies mentions the victim’s (who is a 9-year-old male) father saying, “He is a boy; he neither lost a hymen nor will get pregnant. He should behave like a man, not a sissy”.

In another case study quoted here, the father of a 4-year-old victim of abuse in an educational institution says, “If he was a 4-year-old girl, raped by two older boys, school would be afraid of a scandal. Because he is a boy no one cares or accepts the crime”.

The research finding reads “Here, the system consisting of school was indifferent because the victim was a male.”

Even with this research finding, we refuse to ensure that the law is gender neutral.

Homophobia Perpetuates With Boys Who Are Raped by Older Boys or Men

With almost half to one-third of the population affected by child sexual abuse, one can say that child sexual abuse, and in this context, child sexual abuse of boys has reached epidemic proportions. It would be important to curb this as boys who are raped by older boys or men could associate all men who have sex with men as molesters and have an inherent hatred towards them.

An anti-rape protest. Photo used for representational purpose.
An anti-rape protest. Photo used for representational purpose.
(Photo: The Quint)
A small portion of this number of children who grow up to identify themselves as gay, often end up associating their sexuality with the abuse that they underwent as a child, which is not a healthy association either.

The research reads “Patriarchy further condemns homosexuals as less of men, delaying disclosure further. Homophobia can lead to over-sexualised behavior in the male survivors and boys tend to blame themselves more than girls for not being able to stop the abuse.”

We Need to Educate Boys as Much as Girls

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, when I got my first spurt of nightfall (nocturnal ejaculate), I assumed that it is pus and I was going to die. There was no one to educate me, nowhere that I could seek answers.

This absolute lack of information about penile and testicular functions can lead to complex understanding of sex and sexuality, which on addition to the societal perception of male machismo, keeps sexuality in the realm of superiority even in fantasy.

Most of which is in from the internet. Boys need to be educated. Boys need to be allowed to feel vulnerable.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 is largely a gender-neutral law that recognises that children irrespective of gender could be sexually abused.

This addition of death penalty of rape of “WOMEN under 12” is an attempt to divide children in terms of sex. Besides excluding boys, even the word “woman” for a 12-year-old is shameful. Are they classifying children on the basis of reproductive functions? So will they call a 10-year-old boy, a man because he produces sperm?

While death penalty by itself is barbaric and should be opposed, this “sex selection” should strongly condemned. Children deserve dignity and a sense of closure. Time for #YesAllChildren?

Read the ordinance here.

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