May 1, 2009

Being 9, a girl, ... and PREGNANT!

Brazil is home to coffee, carnivals, Pele, and the most number of Catholics in the world. It is also home to a 9-year-old child pregnant with twins. Till recently a sprightly and bright child, she was raped and impregnated by her stepfather. Doctors warned that she was not developed enough to carry forth a pregnancy, much less twins. In fact, not only was the child not physically developed to carry a pregnancy to term, but any attempt to do so would have jeopardized her life. The child herself weighed only 80 pounds.

Defying all rational thought, and in a declaration that would scare the daylights out of any sane individual, the Catholic Church declared the decision to abort the foetuses as amounting to 'murder'. Although abortion is illegal in Brazil, there are exceptions - and this case certainly qualified. Unfortunately, the child has now been labeled a murderer. I can not help but wonder how furtive glances of pity and shame would affect her as she attempts to build her life over the years with the weight of what she has already endured on her heart.

Then there is the man who raped her. He is in jail and will hopefully endure severe repercussions once he is convicted, although that may not be likely. Brazil's laws on rape would have been laughable had the situation not been so grim. Rape in this country is considered a crime only if the victim is a virgin or 'an otherwise noble woman'. Not surprisingly, the term 'noble' is not defined in the country's law books and is left to the imagination. Moreover, rape of a virgin whose age is between 14 and 18 is only punishable by 6 years in jail. Victims only begin to recover after 6 years; in Brazil they would be forced to live with the reality of once again running into their rapist on the streets. Again, kidnap and subsequent rape of a woman is a crime, provided she is a virgin, but the maximum sentence is only 48 months.

In Brazil, an unmarried woman who is not a virgin cannot legally be raped. Never mind that the emotional rape will continue to haunt her for the rest of her days. In the eyes of the law, violation of a sexually-active unmarried woman, or one who is not a virgin, is not recognisable as an offence. But the most horrific flaw in Brazil's legal construct is the fact that it makes no mention of any repercussions for raping girls under the age of 14.

What's with the world that they judge a woman against a flimsy tissue called the hymen? Why?

The vicious cycle associated with all forms of child abuse is reliable by definition. Some warning signs of abused children include:
  • Depression at an early age
  • Withdrawal from friends and those outside immediate family
  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • MPD (multiple personality disorder) or DID (dissociative identity disorder)
  • Suicide attempts
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour even before puberty
Once these children reach adulthood, the multitude of problems they would encounter are merely extensions of those that would have developed years ago. Often, without resolution via counseling or not being allowed to pursue legal avenues to prosecute these abusers, the cycle repeats itself later in life. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this cycle is the common profile of a paedophile. Many paedophiles are themselves victims of abuse as children and/or had parents who were addicts. These children had low self-esteem which only lowered further with every passing day. Clearly, the cycle repeats time and again.

What, then, can be the answer? Experts usually disagree on the best solution, but most endorse the presence of the victim during the legal proceedings. If these children do not witness justice meted out to them in an accepted manner, they will equate it to not being important enough to be given justice. Sadly, even despite a robust legal construct that are in place, far too many victims either fall through the cracks or do not survive to seek justice. For those who are removed from their abusive homes and placed in protective custody, history repeats itself in more terrifying ways. The most frustrating aspect is breaking this cycle before it sends up the red flags.

That said, it is certainly not a lost cause to ensure protection for these children. A collaborative and coordinated team approach can be designed to protect the rights of these children. The legal representative must work hand-in-hand with government agencies, counsellors and guardians or custodians of the victims. Such combined effort can work to the advantage of the children and are make them feel as though someone is looking out for them.

We can only hope (against hope) that the Catholic Church reconsiders the label it has so carelessly placed on this innocent little girl. She already carries enough on her young mind without being accused of murder too.

Courtesy: LawyerAhead

Edited to add:
Someone actually wrote this in his comment on a forum: "Why do you need to give a man a life sentence or death for a rape when the female can easily get on with her life after sometime? It is a crime that can in no way equated to murder or cutting off a person's hands or legs."


Goofy Mumma said...


Anonymous said...

So this is the civilised world that man has created... !!

I am sure animals have a better world.. !

Indian Homemaker said...

Very well written post Surbhi. I am fuming after reading this....I think this country also has the option of victim being made honorable by marrying the rapist.

A lot of people relate rape and sexual-abuse to the victim's attractiveness, lifestyle and sex life. Even women do!! And obviously they assume this can never happen to them.

It is disgusting that only virgins can be considered raped. In India also if not legally, atleast in our way of thinking we seem to feel that if a woman is out with men and drinking they are free to rape her.

I know of a case of child abuse where the molester said the six year of victim had been jumping on his stomach, and when he was asked if he would have raped his own daughter if she was jumping on his stomach, he said his daughter would never behave so indecently.

R.K. said...

I hate chocolates.
and i hate brazil.
Really shocking. If rapists in other countries get to know the limits to punishments, they would migrate to brazil, really.
This again is an example, that how so much inhuman is done by so called followers of GOD. and then they ask why we are agnostics !!

The punishments that come to my mind for rapists are something like, frying their heads in acid by hanging them upside down. If Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante, so be it.

Monika said...

surubhi i am trembling after reading this post, i had to drink two glasses of water before i could comment....

is this horrible world for real?????????????????

I dont know what to do with these kind of law, when will the people start treating women as human beings and kids child sexual abuse is something which makes my blood boil, i think anyone who touches a child with bad intention has no right to live

and even dont want to talk abt that comment that someone gave,these guys are not humans they are not

Surbhi said...

Goofy Mumma:
You bet. I mean, where does all this end? More importantly, when does all this end?

Surbhi said...

Yeah, at least animals don't rape their young - whether their own or others. Now that I think of it, they don't rape at all. Neither do they kill for revenge or to steal or to 'teach a lesson' or to protect their 'honour' or to show they are 'man enough'.

Surbhi said...

Just one question - what did you say to that man you quoted in the last line of your comment?
Ok, another question. Was that man for real? And what exactly did he mean by 'behave indecently'?

Surbhi said...

I love chocolates, and I love Brazilian coffee as well. Don't say that, dear, its not the entire nation's fault that their laws are so screwed up. If that were the case, you and I need to hate ourselves too for the shit that happens in India.
I understand you anger, but what can you really do? It is these posts that make me feel so goddamn helpless.
Another thing, I understand you when you talk about the harshest possible punishment. I think that way too. But another part of my brain says - that's eliminating the criminal but not the crime. And you know, RK, the crime can only be eliminated if our men (and women too) start seeing other women as humans - not objects. And if we all bother more about ourselves than about what some girl is saying/ doing/ wearing/ eating/ drinking. Isn't it?

Surbhi said...

I'm sorry I made you feel that way, but it also reassures me that my point has been driven across.
Think - if this is the reaction only reading this can cause to you, what kind of people would actually do such a thing!
And you're right - anyone who looks at a child (boy or girl), or for matter even another adult (man or woman) has no right to be.

Smitha said...

OH my goodness!!! Can't believe it!!

Just 6 years of imprisonment??? What kind of justice is that?

'In Brazil, an unmarried woman who is not a virgin cannot legally be raped. ' Wow!! That takes it to a whole new level! And no mention of raping an under 14? And I used to think that our Indian laws were bad!

As for the Catholic Church - there was a similar case in Ireland too - several years back, I believe... Wonder if they will ever change..

This was so shocking to read! As for the person who commented - he needs to get his head examined! And makes me shudder to think that there are people who think like this!

Anonymous said...

Where are you girl?
You are being missed!