Abused Childhood

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In a society obliterated by violence over the last 23 years, there are shocking tales of children abused by their stepparents which have gone unreported. Saima Bhat talks to the victims to shed light on the other face of our society!

Shazia, 25, was in Class 10 when her father died in a road accident. She was her father’s daughter and used to sleep with her parents. Soon after the tragic accident, Shazia’s mother married her brother-in-law as per the wishes of her family. The marriage was solemnized in the same year and it became a turning point in Shazia’s life.

As the days passed, Shazia’s health deteriorated. She stayed aloof from her parents and was silent all the time. Her parents were worried and they consulted a doctor who advised them to take her to a psychiatrist who made a shocking disclosure about the problems Shazia was facing and what was eating her up internally. “I was 16 when my father died. Since I had a habit of sleeping with my mother and father, I continued this habit after my father’s death. Once I became mature, I realized I was being abused by my stepfather in the nights.”

“He raped me for six long years. My mother was witness to everything” says Shazia in a corridor of Government Psychiatric Hospital in Srinagar, J&K’s summer capital, where she had come for a routine checkup. “When I shared my ordeal with my mother, she asked me not to reveal it to anyone” she says. Her mother’s insistence pushed Shazia further towards isolation. She now lives with her grandparents. “My mother told me she was afraid of people, that what they would think if they come to know about it. When your mother doesn’t support you in such times, how can one expect any relative or a friend to be a well-wisher?”

“I still wake up at least once in the night to ensure that nobody is sleeping on my side. I prefer to sleep alone. If anything touches my skin during sleep, I feel threatened and shout like a maniac,” she says.

The mistreatment and abuse of children by their stepparents is not a new phenomenon in Kashmir. There are many cases where the behavior of stepparents has crossed the limit of immorality and reached the extreme end. This is a reason why many widows in Kashmir have not married for the second time and instead preferred to take care of their children as a single parent. As per a report on the widows of Kashmir prepared by sociologists, 95 percent widows don’t marry again, partly because they can’t secure their children and partly because it is unacceptable to the society though Islam, the majority religion of J&K, allows remarriage.

Bashir Ahmad Dabla, a renowned sociologist who teaches at University of Kashmir says that not many widows remarry in Kashmir because the traditional notion of remarriage is tantamount to inviting curse. “In most cases, children suffer. We found in our studies that children don’t get proper treatment from a step father. Their needs are not fulfilled and their demands are not met which ultimately result in unhealthy marital life. Such children become a source of dispute, a source of discontent, in the family.”

The fear of getting ostracized from their societies stops people from remarrying. Adfar Shah, another sociologist says the problems of re-socialization emerge in second marriage, “When an adult becomes a stepparent or a child becomes a stepchild or step sibling, the issues of incompatibility, non-adjustment, lack of mutual love or natural dislike becomes common. There is every possibility of things going from bad to worse.”

Rubeena was five-year-old when her mother passed away. She was the only child of her parents and her father, Bashir Ahmad, who was in 30’s at that time decided to remarry. Bashir married a widow who also had a son from her first husband and the couple mutually decided to live in the house of Rubeena’s new mother.

Baby Rubeena was unaware of the changes that were happening in her life which had direct consequences on her childhood and how she was raised. Things started changing abruptly. When she grew up, she was asked to assist her stepmother in the kitchen. Her new mother used to work at a private company and had very little time to look after household work.

“Initially I was asked by my father to help mother in the kitchen. I didn’t know that I will be soon asked to take full responsibility of keeping the house clean,” Rubeena says. She learnt how to cook and was given more responsibilities and at a tender age of 10, Rubeena was transformed and her childhood was shattered. —

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1 Comment

  1. I like the titles of your articles. Very apt.

    Although, I believe everything Islam has to say about anything but things do not make sense sometimes. However, every new day comes with answers to my unasked questions and I increasingly realise how true Islam is about everything.

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