Friday, 27 March 2009

Is the internet the new age shrink, guru and what have you

There is something about the internet. The anonymity that it offers to those who wish to remain so, and still seek out information, advice, or even give info and advice....

A young woman sexually exploited by her father, mother! and a former neighbour for nine long years, finally broke her silence and came out in the open telling her uncle about her ordeal. What made her do it was a friend on the net, who advised her to break free. Kudos to the friend. The journalists still do not have his name; all that we know is that he is a married man and gave her some very sound advice.

The 21-year-old could not tell anyone of her ordeal…suffering in silence… We learn that she did not study beyond  Class 10 as her father did not let her continue with her education. But as he needed her to help him with his number plate design business, he taught her how to work the computer.

And she found a friend online, who we are informed she has never met. When her parents (her mother was an active accomplice) pushed her younger sister into having sex with their once-upon-a time neighbour Rathod, the older girl was very upset. She did not want her young sister to go through the misery she had been through for all these years. She told her friend on line who advised her to come out. And she did.

The story has a sequel. Seeing the coverage of the sordid tale set in Mumbai on the television, a college girl in Amritsar, sexually abused by her father (incidentally a political leader!!) took courage and went to the police.

The two instances show the power of modern communication tools. Subjects which were kept hidden, to be brushed under the carpet or in dark family closets, can now be brought out into the open, debated and discussed. If it had not been for the net and the TV, the girls would probably never have been able to speak against the beasts they had as their fathers.

The stories of incest are now appearing on the front pages of newspapers. I remember while doing a study on women and their portrayal in the media a good nine years ago, I came across a shocking news item - A judge in India actually gave a reprieve to a rapist, for he felt that the man was needed at home as he had daughters who were of marriageable age and his presence was necessary for their marriages to be arranged! And there was no public outcry against this insane decision. Not a word appeared in the papers against this mad judge. I wondered at the horror of it all. Wouldn’t the girls have been better off with the rapist father behind bars?

But such subjects were rarely discussed those days.

When Anuja Gupta, set up RAHI Foundation to help victims of incest around the same time, many of us marvelled at her for taking on such a tough task. How would she reach the victims? Or would they come to her?

Anuja’s organisation has been helping many young and old women who have survived incest. She was the one who told me, “Do not call them victims, they are survivors….”

We can only applaud the two young women survivors for speaking out against incest. It must have been terribly hard… The internet made it possible.

After all that courage that it takes for a girl to speak out, the support structures are so inadequate. This is an example of how the police and our law deals with such cases, making it all the more tough for girls to speak out.

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