Childhood is sacred, a place we all go back to for solace and peace. It was made of days that were spent running around with no care in the world. It was the protected, happy time when we'd build castles in the air. But the image changes quickly if you are a girl in India, the childhood is cut short. People of the paediatric ward of a hospital will tell you stories that will give you sleepless nights. It's no country for little girls. They just have to grow up. Too quickly and all too soon.
We are constantly taught the need to be careful. A two-year-old has to be careful to not go too close to strangers, a six-year-old has to be careful where she plays, a 12-year-old has to be careful about the world she is interacting with and it's the responsibility of this care that takes away the innocence of childhood. This problem manifests itself ten-fold as she grows.
There's a lifelong mental tuning to take any attention coming our way as a threat because, 'better safe than sorry'. It's where the majority of the problem lies because we ignore and hence accept the power play at work. There's a gross acceptance of the dangers of being a girl in India. This acceptance of the prevalent power play shows that women, are still seen as the weaker sex and some women even accept being seen as such.
We are seen as the gender that can be preyed upon and predators have never cared about the age of the prey. And we have always been taught to run.
Sanjay Singh, director of the documentary film Chuppi Todo had this to say, "Perpetrators are mostly known to these children. I took my film to various schools and children homes across the country to help youngsters recognise abuse, raise their voice against it and report it to a responsible adult. During these screenings, I came across many children who revealed that they have faced sexual abuse."
If only the ingrained running would have helped. More than half the times the perpetrators of child abuse are known to the child. If the danger sits right at home, where do we go?
I'm the only child and each time I left the house my mother would say, "Jaldi ghar aana." Every time I had to go to my friend's place my mother would wring her hands and look at my father. She had seen too much you see, and I was mostly never allowed nights-out and sleepovers. The fear under which the parents of a girl live is just as traumatising.
They say what women wear is what perpetuates rape. But what kind of a sick mind would a person have to have inflicted such atrocities on an infant who is not even a year old? Was she supposed to be 'careful' too?
Teaching men not to rape is a constant rant that we see everywhere. We need to understand that rape is not taught. It happens when people stop seeing others as fellow people, it's the infliction of brutal power over those who cannot physically overcome their perpetrators.
The victim simply becomes an object of gratification. It's the fear of this gratification that's fed to young minds. That's what the entire hullabaloo over 'Being Careful' is about- to not get raped. Instead of pointlessly teaching men not to rape, teach people to see others as people. The moment this objectification stops, change will begin.
Let's not destroy the place of solace that these little girls will one day want to go back to. Let them grow into the independent individuals that we need for a better tomorrow. Let their ideas of the world not be shaped by horrors that will never wipe themselves away. We really need to let the little girls of our country be.