Jun 2013 03

-Peer Educator, 20, Know Your Body, Know Your Rights

I had a normal childhood where my parents never cringed before using the proverbial stick on me whenever I strayed from a path to be followed. Safe to say, this happened in every classmate’s house. Now when I see memes with a pair of rubber slippers and a tiny line underneath saying ‘If you remember this, your childhood was not awesome’, I know it was a regular affair that people can now make light of.

I was beaten with iron scales when I could not memorize facts for my science exam in 5th grade and I was beaten with a walking stick when I lied about using my mother’s makeup. I believe that was the major reason why I was a bully as a child. I would beat up people I liked, disliked or did not even care for. When I think of it now, with the reasoning skills of a supposed adult, I believe the reason I was physically abusive to other children was because I thought that beating people up when they committed a small mistake was normal because figures of authority I had seen did it.

The moment the beatings started seeping into my adolescent life was when I knew something was wrong. That was when it turned into physical abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. I was beaten up for the smallest of things like not keeping my shoes in the proper place. I was called a prostitute for touching a boy on the shoulder. I was spit on; I was thrown around by my hair and locked in a room till I accepted wrongdoings that I had never done. I did not know what to do, where to go. I was never an introvert but when I started understanding that what was happening to me was not usual, I bent inward. I became suicidal and that was the phase of my life when everything seemed wrong and that is also the point in my life where I look back and hate myself. I would go to school with bruises and swollen jaws almost every other week and I could not explain it to my friends in school and later college.

I hated the girl I had become. She hated everything, had extreme mood swings, had no tolerance, harmed herself and most importantly did not do anything about what was happening to her. I tried talking it out with the perpetrator, I tried talking to friends, I tried hitting back, I tried to change myself but I never complained to someone who could actually do something about it. But by speaking out today maybe I can salvage a little of the person beneath all the hurt and the pain my childhood and also a part of my adulthood left behind. By speaking today, I want to tell people suffering from such abuse to not ignore it or think of it as a phase, not speaking about it will only give leeway to the perpetrator to exercise more control over you. It is essential to try as much as you can to resolve matters on your own but if it makes no difference you should speak out about it. However traumatic this may have been for you, it is NOT your fault and you have the right and the capability to lead a normal, happy, and successful life. Do not pity yourself, you are more than a victim of abuse, you are your own person and you are what you make of yourself.

According to Section 89 of the Penal Code, “Nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known by the doer to be likely to cause to that person.…”

There have been several attempts to amend this but none have been successful. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in 2012, proposed that there be amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act which would also contain a section on corporal punishment, giving a definition to and punishing offences of causing hurt and grievous hurt in line with the Penal Code provisions. But if the proposed amendments will prohibit all corporal punishment, including inside the home, cannot be said.

This act of violence and the thoughts and trauma that victims need to overcome can easily be avoided, if only the law would make a provision for it. There is an urgent need to expand our collective and legislative definition of Domestic Violence. We need to acknowledge that violence of any kind is wrong; because it has severe mental consequences and it is as much an infringement of rights as any other form of violence. All forms of violence that are now looked down upon were legitimized to begin with. This too is an example. We must shun corporal punishment completely. Look down upon it like you look down upon domestic violence, because it is violence that occurs inside the domestic framework. Do not keep quiet about it. If you see someone being wronged in this manner, speak about it. Rally for a provision to punish corporal punishment in the Penal Code; ask for an addition in the Domestic Violence Act 2005 for thirteen to eighteen year old individuals and a change in the mindsets of people. Bring a change that will impact not only the future generation but all the past generations that have seen it happen but have never given it enough importance. Any kind of violence, even if the perpetrator is the lawful guardian, is wrong. Period.