That photo is probably the Indian (or Asian) concept of parenting! And it is time for us to majorly rethink it!!
In less than a year, there is yet another diplomatic battle brewing between India and Norway on yet another child abuse case. What India calls “culture appropriate” parenting, is regarded as abuse and violation of a child’s human rights in Norway and in most other western countries.
In the last case, Norway submitted to the bullying by the Indian government, egged on by the Indian public, and allowed the children back to India. This time they are not taking any chances. The two parents in question have been jailed in Norway! Norway didn’t quite like the burn marks on the 7-year-old boy’s legs, and probably didn’t buy the parents explanations that he had bumped his legs against a cooking stove. They also didn’t like their threatening to do other things like burn his tongue and send him back alone to India. The family of the jailed couple thinks otherwise. They say, “How can the court pronounce its judgment based on the complaint of a seven-year-old boy without even taking into account our arguments based on Indian culture and values?”
They are not alone. It is how India views parenting. A child is the property of a parent. Is it for anyone to say, what a person is to do with their property?
You can beat, burn, sell, destroy your property – and I’m talking about children here, as hundreds of parents do in India. A couple of years ago, the campaign I run, The 50 Million Missing, tried to intervene, in the case of a child, whose family had tried to kill her because she was born a girl. They had starved her, battered her, and at that age of 2 years, she was an un-named entity, lying in a corner of a violent, abusive home, waiting to die. I named her Karishma. But because the mother would not cooperate with us, we could not remove that child from that house.
In 2011 a study on domestic violence that killed girls and women in Indian homes was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study was conducted jointly by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health. It established that of the girls born in India between 1985-2005, whose birth was registered, a total of 3 million (1.2 in infancy, and 1.8 million before the age of 6 years) had been killed by domestic violence. The study further established that “Shockingly this violence does not pose a threat to your life if you are lucky enough to be born a boy.” So the only reason they were killed was because they were girls, as indeed reason Karishma was in danger. This of course is all part of our “cultural” value system which values boys, and not girls, and hence we need to be understanding of this violence when it impacts on our parenting styles – right? That’s what most NGOs say. That is what most international organizations say. And that’s what the government says! There is no law in India that protects a child from the parent, that sets levels of safety and parental care, or that allows legal intervention to remove a child to safety!
Earlier this year Chinese-American writer, Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother, had visited India to promote her book at a book fair in the city of Jaipur. It is a book in which she talks about the type of tough parenting Asian mothers subject their children to, to make them ‘high achievers.’
However, proud she may be of these ‘Asian’ methods of childrearing, they’ve not been viewed too positively in the west . When Chua was interviewed on the Today show, viewers said “She’s a monster”; “The way she raised her kids is outrageous”; “Where is the love, the acceptance?” Chua has also been contemptuous of what she considers soft standards of parenting by westerners.
Needless to say, Chua was completely at home in India! Her book promoted itself! And a happy Chua said, “I feel so much better coming to Jaipur [India] because this has been the first audience where so many moms have said, ‘I get it!”