April 4, 2012

Betrayed by the protector

In an era where bad news has become a daily staple and the severity of crimes against people reaches new lows every day, the recent report of a father raping his own daughter for over a year is exceptionally disgusting and repulsive. What does it say about our plunging moral ecosystem?

One of the worst crimes that can be committed is that where one exploits a person who one is expected to protect otherwise. A father's relationship with his daughter is fiduciary, i.e. one of trust. He is not just a financial provider to her, but is also her greatest source of protection in a dangerous world. She is his baby, whatever her physical age. When the protector turns defiler, can there be a crime worse than that?

In this situation, it's not just a sex crime that's being perpetrated. The real crime in this situation is the betrayal of that trust. Having been violated by her own father, the girl (who incidentally is a minor) has perhaps lost the ability to strike any healthy relationships during the course of her life. Her ability to think and believe in the inherent goodness of mankind has perhaps been tarnished forever.

Two issues require serious deliberation here. The first issue is more generic about society. Why does a rape victim have to face continuing (even lifelong) trauma? Why is she believed to have invited the calamity on herself when, in a free country, everyone is entitled to lead a life of one's choice? Why does the social taboo of 'being raped' multiply the troubles of a victim, never the perpetrator? Why is society callous towards the victim, and continues to berate her? Why is she not allowed to lead a normal life even after the crime, without anyone making snide remarks about her 'character'?

These questions say a lot about our society and its misguided beliefs, but never elicit a sensitive hearing from our political leaders, opinion-leaders, family-members and other stakeholders (other than some well-calibrated lip-service).

The second issue relates to the role of the girl's mother. It's not as if a crime of this brutality was committed in a moment of madness. This girl was abused several times by her father for over a year, and all this while, the mother kept quiet. She attributes her reticence to the fear of the family name being tarnished in an unforgiving society. It's not as if we are talking about an eminent family of the country, but just common people who are guaranteed anonymity anyway in a fast-paced city. She also feared being beaten up by her husband if she intervened to protect the child. However, her financial and emotional dependence on her husband cannot mitigate her role in the crime, one of omission rather than commission, but equally grave.

Can we move on to a world where girls are respected, nurtured and loved, rather than brutalized by their own parents?

--Shaina N C

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