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25 Jun 2022, Edition - 2538, Saturday

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Columns

A 3-T counselling app for parents can drive away child abuse

UmaRam

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Thanks to those who have made the switch over from the term `sex’ in application forms to `gender’. The very utterance of the word which was once a taboo has now become a common usage through mass media. While the induced hormones in the meats and foods consumed promote early puberty and early infertility in both genders, the celluloid world triggers the negative emotions in young blooming minds.

The sponsors of a kids’ talent show on a TV channel are a male contraceptive brand. It is really embarrassing when anchors utter the name of the product as a sponsor amid children and adolescents who become the immediate victims at vicinity.

While experts say that sex education is a must in today’s scenario, to create awareness among children and adolescents and prevent child abuse and violence in general against children, I view the issue from a different perspective. In ancient times there was this practice of `baalya vivah’ or child marriage where children even below 10 years were pushed into wedlock, at an ignorant age. My grandma got married when she was 8 and grandfather12. They had been childhood playmates who were united into married life by the two families. It was after six years of marriage that my grandmother attained puberty. She had her first baby when she was hardly 15. But as the mortality rate was very high then with less medical advancements, her first five children died within a couple of years after birth. My mother was the ninth child, when my granny was 53 and my grandfather was 57.

But nowadays both genders attain early puberty and equally early full stop to their fertility, much earlier, i.e, menopause and andropause, mainly due to the poisonous foods consumed ignorantly. These foods trigger passions at an early age, with the graph of hormonal fluctuations from the very highest at a very tender age to extremely low with a steep slide too at an early age. This is the reason doctors point out for the increased childlessness in the past two decades.

Being a student rep I had the opportunity to interact with late Dr Sunithi Solomon, an Indian physician and microbiologist who pioneered AIDS research and prevention in India after having diagnosed the first Indian AIDS case in Chennai in 1985. The founder of the Y R Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Dr Sunithi, who had visited our college during my BEd for special awareness programmes on AIDS, told us that her youngest HIV patient was a 13-year-old girl, who had contracted it through physical contact. She had confided that after the biology classes on reproductive system, her senior had brainwashed her that she can get a good figure if she had physical contact with him. As she was often ridiculed for her bony figure, she believed his words and had contracted AIDS from him. She was diagnosed with HIV when she had approached a gynaecologist for abortion.

Another HIV+ girl had confessed that she had got into physical relationship with her neighbour to drive away her loneliness as both her parents were busy doctors. She had in fact avowed that she had never got the warmth of her parents’ loving touch and embrace ever since a toddler as she was under the caretaker. In fact Dr Sunidhi pinned that with both parents being busy in their jobs, children get deprived of the “necessary tender touch of love and care”. It is this weak point that abusers take advantage of.

Thus when the child is being manhandled, it is unaware of the nature of the touch. All it needed was the loving warm embrace. So when abusers mishandle, they initially never object as they had longed for that loving embrace from their own parents which they did not know was a good or a bad touch. Unfortunately child abusers take advantage of this yearning to slowly abuse them. It is really a pathetic scenario that children longing for their own parents’ love and care get abused, unaware of what is happening to them.

Such incidents go back to 1998. Then just imagine today’s scenario with the beast named `Internet’ let loose.

I would say that though gender education is necessary to create awareness among children, more than that intimacy of parents is the need of the hour. We no more practice the crime of child marriage where a child was left all by itself to get that warmth of love and embrace from another child. In such a case only the 3 `T’s can help children escape physical abuse- `Talk, Trust and Touch’ from parents. When the child gets the three from parents they will know practically the difference between the good and the bad touch. Thus more than imparting gender education to children, awakening even those ignorant of the actual `deed’, in a crucial circumstance, love, care, attention and intimacy of parents towards children alone can stop gender abuse, be it a child or an adolescent. I remember being pampered on my dad’s lap even when I was in my higher secondary. My mother used to sit up till late nights during my exams and feed me when I was busy with my BEd projects, and that too post my Masters.

But today it is hard to come across such a scene as parents in the name of grooming the children to be independent, procrastinate their duties as parents. If parents become more intimate with their children they cannot fall prey to abusers. Patch up the communication gap with your children as there can be no better counsellors than parents. Happy parenting.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

(The author of the column is Uma Ram, freelance writer from Coimbatore)

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