The Gulf conundrum: Child Sexual Abuse

I just want to list a few things that happen in the Gulf, amongst Indian and Asian expatriates. Risky and negligent behaviour by parents, who think this is a safe place. Safe equals you will not be killed or robbed because murderers and robbers fear losing their limbs or worse.

1. A large number of Asian families share their apartments with strangers. Very rarely do two families share an apartment, as sharing a kitchen becomes an issue of contention. So it would be a family of 4 or 5, sharing their apartment with 1 or 2 bachelors (there aren’t many bachelorettes around).

This is why they do this. The double-income family wants to save money for all the commitments they have back home. For the gold and the big house and the brag rights.

The bachelors find it difficult to find accommodation, and all they need is a room.

There are probably 1 or 2 or 3 little children in that house, who come back home from school, microwave their food, and plonk in front of the TV. The bachelor ‘uncles’ may come home earlier than the mother and father.

Educated, well placed bachelor uncles are safe right?

What’s wrong with this story?

2. Public transport is expensive or non-existent. Mum and dad are busy. So private taxis run by uncles are pressed into service. These uncles reach a scary level of familiarity. They don’t think twice before putting an arm around a teenaged ward to help her cross the road. Caring? Scary!

3. Most of us here employ the services of man-maids (they are called houseboys here). Guys holding a regular job who moonlight for extra money. Many parents who don’t want to spend money on a separate babysitter, will convince the man-maid to step in and take care of the kid(s) whenever needed. Kids grow up with no idea of personal space or privacy.

4. Many do employ babysitters. Some without a valid visa. Chances are mommy and daddy don’t know where the lady who is in-charge of their child lives. They have no information on her, except a name.

All of this could be true of any place in India. Only thing, if you feel we are ‘silent’ about abuse in India, just multiply it a 200 times. Blindfolded, ear-plugged, gagged ignorant.

And if something does happen, we don’t know what to do. Because sharing accommodation is illegal; employing people who are not on your visa or have proper papers is illegal; private taxis are illegal.

You are here to save money. And if that means cutting every corner possible, let’s go ahead and do that! This is a safe place, no harm will come to our children. And the loving uncles who hug and tickle our children are good people to have around.

Butterflies in my stomach, when I think of all those kids at the mercy of strange uncles.

ps: have been speaking to a friend about the kind of sexual abuse local children (especially boys) are exposed to. but i don’t have all the info yet, and will post at a later date.


13 thoughts on “The Gulf conundrum: Child Sexual Abuse

  1. Maya says:

    Good piece, Vani. Just remembered what I read during the attacks on Indians in Melbourne. That concept of personal safety did not change all that much with places. And the writer had pointed out that women were used to being more cautious which perhaps explained why no girl student had been reported attacked then. (Though tere was a case of rape and murder of an Indian girl in Sydney recently!) Perhaps, not entirely true. But some precautions have to be taken anywhere and everywhere and we are foolish to think that human beings act very differently in different countries!

  2. Kisara says:

    Hey…now you got me started :)!

    Here are four things we really need to teach all our kids.

    1. TELL – if anyone touches you in a way that makes you scared, worried, uncomfortable TELL that person to stop it immediately. Teach kids to say ‘Stop’ and ‘No’ in a firm, strong voice.Help them discover that they have strong voices and weak voices and that they can practice using their strong voices. Teach them that Stop and No are complete sentences.

    2. RUN – if the person doesn’t listen, teach the kids to RUN. To get away & stay away.

    3. YELL – if they are in a situation where even after telling whoever to stop, they are being held down, teach them to YELL, till someone hears them. Abusers are cowards. They will let go.

    4. TELL AGAIN – Teach kids if something, anything happens that they need to find an adult whom they trust, an adult who will listen to them, and tell that person what happened. If one adult doesn’t believe them and shushes them up, teach kids to keep telling people until they find an adult who will believe them.

    Sometimes just sitting down and teaching kids about their body parts, what they are there for ( you mouth is there for you to eat with, smile with etc.) will put them at an advantage when it comes to being safe. Once you get through most parts of them it is so much easier to talk to them about parts of their bodies that are private and belong to them. Its a small step from that point to tell them about who can touch them and for what reason ( A teacher can pat your head to show you that they are happy with you, a friend can hold your hand while walking, a doctor might need to check you if you have something wrong with wherever.. kind of conversation) so that our kids can recognize what is appropriate touch and what is not. Make the conversation as age appropriate as needed. But HAVE IT!

    Long post..I know. But I am a big believer in making our babies..all babies, as safe as is possible!

    • UmmON says:

      totally agree. repeated dialogue is the only way to go. so many parents feel it will ‘put’ ideas in their heads, if you talk to children about abuse!

    • UmmON says:

      yes, missed school bus. but that is slightly beyond the parent’s control. we need to look at how schools need to protect — that’s another long story!
      this is the other thing i keep hearing — boys can come alone on buses with attendants, only girls need to be careful! it’s time to educate the parents.

  3. Kiwi says:

    V: the bottom line is: how far are people willing to go to save money? It is scary how far people are actully willing to go. The truth is that some people have their priorities wrong. What is the use of saving money by putting your own kids at risk? Better safe (and poorer) than sorry…..Kisara is right – you need to have a conversation with your kid. It is not always comfortable, but it needs to be done. And ha, who said onlyl girls have to be careful? Some parents are so behind the times!

  4. Kamini says:

    Excellent piece. Just thinking of those bachelor uncles gives me the chills.

    It’s a fine line we have to tread, between teaching our children to be friendly with, and wary of, strangers, between preserving their innocence and teaching them that it’s a big bad world out there.

  5. Careless Chronicles says:

    I love this post. It covers a unique aspect of life in the Gulf. Another dicey aspect is the many Gulf children that are farmed out to relatives in India. Those are as much as risk as well.

  6. Laksha says:

    true enough – a good perspective on a topic oft spoken about. And every new story is a story that’s been told, over and over again. Also, you inspired my next post:) L

  7. teesu says:

    Please plublish this post in magazines…though not sure if that would drive the point home for parents who think: “This would not happen to US!” And who is to face the music? The children. A whole lifetime of mixed feelings, emotions and unsteady self-esteem and…who knows what else.

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