Tuesday, 27 September 2016

It is on us, Parents. It is on us! - PART 1

(First published in FEMINISTAA.)

That day, the morning unfolded with this piece of news:

It happens. We all knew that, didn't we? It happens all over, all the time - the records will confirm. But then, close home?

The news byte was soon floated online by parents, and as you may expect, yes. It took the Whatsapp messenger by a storm. Demands for CCTV cameras, GPS services on bus, extra bus didis to appoint, teachers stay in bus until last child is dropped, and so on...

I concur.


I have some questions!


It is important to know that against one incident that makes it to the newspaper headline, there are hundreds and thousands of incidents that do not get reported, acknowledged or even recognized. If you read carefully the reporting of the incident on the Presidium case, you’ll notice that it was not the child who came and reported it to the parent. It was the mother who noticed it from the swollen thighs while trying to give the child a bath. Now, this child is 4 years old. Don’t you think that it’d have been much better if the child was AWARE that there is a problem when the incident happened to her, and ALERT so that she could try to stop it? Even if she could not stop it, don’t you agree it’d be much better if she felt ALARMED so that she could report it to her parents once she reached home? Is it also not extremely ESSENTIAL for her to know that it is NOT her SHAME or FAULT if such a thing happens, so that she can actively SEEK HELP and not keep the incident a secret?


As much as a CCTV or a female attendant or a parent or teacher representative from school present in the bus can do, and there is no doubt that we need that and we will continue to demand zero fault in such arrangements, what we’ve gathered here to tell you is that despite the safety measures, the risk of gender crimes is never zero. And so as parents, we need to brace up and take our own steps to curb such incidents.

I’ll first talk of AWARENESS.

Are the kids aware that it is not alright to be touched at the wrong places? Do they know what their private parts are and do they recognize what is an act of violation? Do they know what their actions should be in the face of threats?

I request you to please google up "good touch bad touch" on YouTube and find a video that appeals to your sensibility. There are loads of them out there, from cartooned animations to workshop styles. The one I use at my home is this:

Please. Download a video of your choice on this topic, and play it frequently at your home so that the kids have it fresh in their memory.

The next issue I want to talk about is APPROACHABILITY.

Now, if I be frank, as a child if something like this happened to me, I’m not sure if I’d have felt free to go tell my parents. I wouldn’t be sure if they’d trust me. I also knew that discussions regarding private parts are a subject of taboo, and should not be picked up with elders. I also thought that it is a matter of personal shame if it happened with me. This is exactly where we, the new age parents, have to break the barriers and make a new beginning.

Make it an easy conversation. Make it a part of your dinner table conversation. Make it, regular. Just to check on.

Next is… 


Now, this is not a simple one. If – God forbid – tomorrow your daughter comes up to you and tells you that someone has violated her, I’m sure it’d not be easy to stay calm and smiling through the news.


It is really important that we do not exhibit a reaction of shock and distress as they trust and open up before us. These kids and young and sensitive, and if we act stressed or troubled, they’ll immediately feel responsible and hold themselves guilt for the incident. Don’t show them that you are upset. That will not help the purpose.

Instead, let us make a habit of gently probing them about how things have been and what has happened, and let us show an equanimous reaction in case something comes up. Let us stay calm so that we can motivate them to confess and open up in front of us.

We need to be alert, and at the same time affectionate. We need to be careful, and at the same time trusting. We need to be asking, and at the same time, non-anxious.

It is on us, parents. It is on us!