I’m late doing this because frankly after seeing the prelaunch teaser on a blog, I never saw anything else, until a real life event jolted me into searching for a link.

And here it is, the CSA Awareness Month initiative, is back this year with… Okay, I’m still going through the site so I can’t say exactly what’s on it, but go check it out yourself.

And the reason I think all of us parents need to educate ourselves on this topic is that it’s more common than we think. If the testimonies and sharing from last year’s initiative weren’t enough, a chat I had with a friend galvanized me.

There is a scandal brewing in a friend’s building in Mumbai because it was discovered that two boys, aged 8 or 9, had been asking the other children to pull down their pants and touching their private parts. The first reaction of the parents, after they got over the shock of this happening to their children, seemed to be to divide the children into aggressor and victim, the ones who “did it” and the ones “to whom it was done”. Two boys were identified as the main instigators and among them, one who was more rowdy and generally disliked, as more “to blame” while the other it was surmised had been initiated into “all this” by the more rowdy kid.

I pointed out that “this” was more common than she thought. That it was natural and quite common for kids of that age to explore and it’s quite possible that those participating enjoyed it. So it might not necessarily be an aggressor and victim. This does not make the kids bad. What is definitely wrong is forcing someone who doesn’t want to participate to do it.

It was then discovered that one of the boys had inserted a stick into another boy’s rectum. My friend said that even if one accepts that it is natural for kids to explore, inserting something like this could be physically harmful. As kids, they don’t know how far to go. A fair point, I conceded.

Finally, it turned out that one of the boys singled out as an instigator had himself been abused by a young man in the building. I use the term abuse here because it is clear to me than an adult indulging in this behaviour with a child is abuse, because the power dynamics between an adult and a child are too stilted in the favour of one. The boy’s father, who is not around a lot, knows about it and used this to try and excuse his son inserting a stick into another boy’s rectum. Moreover, his son has been seen going alone to the young man, his abuser’s, house in the evenings.

Confession time. I am clear that it is natural for young kids to explore their own and each other’s bodies sexually. I myself participated in such activities when I was around 8 or 9. The only negativity associated with those experiences is the guilt and shame about something I’m not sure I needed to be ashamed about. I am also clear that it is wrong to force someone who doesn’t want to participate to do so.

But my question is about the grey areas:

  1. While it is natural for kids to do this, how should a parent react when faced with two children who engaged in sexual acts voluntarily with each other? The traditional answer would be that it’s wrong and should be forbidden. My question, though, is why? I’m not completely on board with the idea of allowing children to have a free-for-all sexually but I’m not sure why. I agree that certain acts can be physically dangerous and should be prohibited. But apart from that, is there any other reason why children should be discouraged from this kind of behaviour.
  1. One of the parents mentioned that when growing up, one of their playmates, an 11-year-old boy “raped” a girl from the slums nearby and was sent to a juvenile centre. If a 11-year-old himself sexually on another child, can it be considered rape? I’m confused because of the age of consent. Statutory rape is when an adult has sex with a minor. But when it’s between two children, even if one is the aggressor, is it still called rape?

I’m not sure if these issues have been explored on the blog. But if they haven’t, maybe it’s fodder for a post by an expert?