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.