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Child S*xual Abuse in Kashmir: Battling Nightmares 

Child Sexual Abuse in Kashmir Battling Nightmares 

Ground Report | New Delhi: Child S*xual Abuse in Kashmir; Aina (name changed) was travelling with her mother and little sister in a public vehicle. Sitting in the middle seat a strange man told her mother that she could let Aina sit comfortably. Little did she know it will become her worst nightmare. 

Child S*xual Abuse in Kashmir

Child s*xual abuse is something that people often presume is not the right thing to talk about. Or to be more precise, it is the stigma associated that does not let people talk about it. In a conservative society like Kashmir, there has been no space formed to talk about it. Most people do not want to acknowledge this harsh reality. However s*xual abuse and molestation of children in Kashmir is as real as the existence of other harassments. 

“He touched me.” 

Aina was 10 years old when this incident happened with her. Talking to Ground Report she said, ” I was sitting close to my mother in the vehicle. My younger sister was in her lap, suddenly a man also sat in the middle seat. He told my mother that the seat occupies only three passengers so she can make me sit comfortably. I was wearing a maroon dress I still remember.” She went on saying, ” When I sat comfortably he asked my mother let my sister sit in the seat as well because both of us were small. When the driver started the vehicle that man started talking to me. Kuch daer baad mujhae unka haath apni taang pae mehsoos hua lekin mae choti thi jaanti nahi thi (sometime later I felt his hand on my thigh but I was too young to understand.)” 

Aina now 21 continued, ” That man I still remember his face, touched me between my legs. He even tried to slide down his even beneath. Mujhae kuch samajh nahi aayaa lekin maenae mama sae kuch baatae ki (I did not understand what was happening but I started talking to my mother.) That man stopped there. He would have been 55+ at that time. But now when I think about it I have nightmares. I cannot understand why did it happen?”  It has been now more than a decade since that include happened but it still continues to be with Aina. 

What is Child S*xual Abuse? 

Child s*xual abuse or child s*xual molest@tion is an illegal and immoral act where children are involved in s*xual acts. Since children do not know what s*x is or what does consent mean, it is considered to be a grave offence. Child s*xual abuse can take place between a child and an adult  ( which is a serious case of pedophilia) or another child who usually can be a legal minor ( a child who is elder than the victim child and is more responsible, or has more power?) The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Child S*xual Abuse (CSA) as:- 

“Child s*xual abuse is the involvement of a child in s*xual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child s*xual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may include but is not limited to:

  • The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful s*xual activity
  • The exploitative use of a child in pros[itution or other unlawful s*xual practices
  • The exploitative use of children in p0*nogr@phic performance and materials”.

This definition states that there are two types of child s*xual abuse (a) physical contact and (b) non-physical contact. Physical contact includes touching, gr0ping, forceful s*xual acts, attempted s*xual acts, rapes and non-physical contact means exposing children to po*nog*aphy, sending them nude pictures, asking children for nudes, online harassments, sending obscene messages. 

“I was abused by my married cousin.” 

Rabiya (name changed) was around 12 years old when she was s*xually abused by her cousin. “I was in class seven when I went to my cousin’s house to spend my holidays. He is 17 years older than me and is married and has a son who was a year old back then,” she said. ” He is married to my other cousin sister so I always felt secure around him. Their son was very fond of me and that night he insisted upon sleeping with me. My cousin sister asked me to sleep with them so I agreed. And that was the first time it happened,” Rabiya told Ground Report, “You know I was a child and I did not know what to do. I did not scream. I did not say anything. I was too numb to do anything. I couldn’t summon the courage to react.”

The abuse ended when Rabiya was in her class 12 and stopped visiting that cousin. “He was one of my favourite cousins, being both amusing and honest. I always felt safe when I was around him. But that night, I saw firsthand what a dreadful person he was. I’m only familiar with that one face,” she remembered. 

Rabiya now 23 could not share the ordeal with anyone because of the stigmatisation of the issue. Meanwhile, she still is not able to forget the trauma. ” Even if I want to share it with my parents or fiancee I cannot. I do not have the nerve to do so. It is just I am dealing with it on my own,” she concluded.

Recently an incident happened in the city outskirts where a minor girl was abducted and molested by three men who later were arrested. In the year 2020, there were two incidents, where a three years old girl was raped and in another one, a minor girl was found to be pregnant after being repeatedly raped by a relative. These however are some cases that made it to headlines and generated a debate, the debate limited to social media. And even in digital space, they did not last long. While there are also cases that never make it to anyone. These cases go unreported and unnoticed and remain with the person forever. 

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“I have chronic depression and suicidal tendencies.” 

Saima (name changed) was seven years old when she first was abused by her older cousin brothers. She is 24 now. Both of her cousins are six years elder than her. She talked to Ground Report and said, ” I still remember the exact happenings because it lasted way too long. I mean throughout my childhood throughout my teenage until I turned 18.” 

“I did not know what it was. For them it was a part of the game we used to play, that is what they used to say,” she explained. It was in her late teens that she realised what she had been through. But the damage was already done. “I developed suicidal tendencies. I used to cut myself. My whole body is full of scars,” she said in a low voice. ” I always thought this was my escape. But I was not. I still feel those touches I still cannot forget anything,” she said pointing at her scars. It was in 2016 when her parents took her to a psychiatrist when they realised something was not right with her. She was diagnosed with chronic depression and put on medication. She told Ground Report, ” I have trust issues, I am very insecure. Even a fatherly touch can get me to start panicking and I get scared. I mostly sleep with my elder sister. That abuse snatched away my sense of security from me.” When asked about her personal life she said, “I have trouble in building relationships because I am not able to build that trust or sense of security with anyone. I prefer to be a loner rather than pretending to be someone.” 

It is not only about suicidal tendencies and depression. A student of psychology on grounds on anonymity told Ground Report, ” Such children develop emotional instability. There are also fair chances that they can develop a split personality disorder. Even some because of emotional instability can fall prey to drugs. They can also develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD.” 

Gender does not play any role in child s*xual abuse. Both genders are equally harmed and subjected to abuse. But owing to the lack of support and recognition such incidents are rarely reported, leaving the survivors traumatized for their lives. Some on one hand dare to speak up, while most of them do not. 

“I was abused when I was three and a half.”

Zain (name changed) 24, was three and a half years old when he was abused. “I was abused by one of my relatives. He was very older than me. I still remember everything,” Zain told Ground Report. He however does not share it with everyone. 

This is not the story of one Zain alone, boys have been subjected to abuse but do not want to talk about it. 

Ground Report got in touch with Nadiya Mir who is running an organisation Not Afraid, which spreads awareness about physical, s*xual, emotional and verbal abuse of children. “When I find such cases I meet the victim and talk to them politely and then I file a case against the abuser. On weekly basis some five to six cases are reported to our organisation,” Nadiya told Ground Report. Nadiya has by far handled around 20 cases. She talked about one case, “There was a case about a father and a daughter. It was very difficult. But Alhamdulilah the father is still behind the bars.” Nadiya however lamented that there are victims who do not want to talk because of the fear of society and family. When asked about how many cases she handles when it comes to male victims, Nadiya said, ” The ratio is 10:4 and mostly male victims are abused by males. Most of the cases of toxic parenting physical and verbal abuse.” 

There however has also been an increase in the online harassment of children. Many children fall prey to online paedophiles. 

What law says about it

The parliament of India passed the “Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill (POCSO)”, 2011 regarding child sexual abuse on 22 May 2012. This act was formulated to deal with the offences related to children comprising sexual assault, sexual harassment and p0rnog*aphy. It prescribes stringent punishment with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life and also a fine. Jammu and Kashmir were amongst the last in the country to implement POCSO  Act in 2018, after the rape and murder of an eight years old girl in the Kathua district of Jammu, which resulted in a mass outrage.

Anyone should not be subjected to any harm. Children in particular because what happens with them stays with them forever. And it is high time this is talked about. 

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