As increasing violence gets reported in God’s Own Country, the cases of sexual abuse of elderly women have raised many eyebrows. According to a report, the shocking paper on the sexual abuse of elderly women presented by Kozhikode South MLA M.K. Muneer in the Kerala Assembly reveals that the sexual harassment against elderly women at houses and old age homes are increasing in Kerala.
The report included many cases of old women being sexually harassed by family members, relatives, neighbours and strangers. Most of the cases do not see the light of day as many of these women don’t have the courage to speak up. Human Rights officials are of the opinion that elderly women are too concerned about society and therefore keep their quiet fearing the reaction of the public if they reveal such incidents. They also say that elderly women at various old age homes who are being harassed are sedated with high doses of medicines and therefore are even unaware of the fact.
When asked about the reason behind such an approach towards elderly women, Shimmy Rosy, a psychologist says, “It is a known fact that neither the older generation has a mind to adjust with the young generation and neither the younger generation is fond of them. There was a time when elder people were the ones who kept the family together and made every member of the family aware about good and bad. However, as time changed no one is interested in listening to their old thinking and therefore are most of the times neglected by their own children, when children don’t respect them how will grandchildren do. This is the reason why elderly people in society are becoming vulnerable to such grave atrocities.”
She added that the use of drugs among the younger generation is also a reason for such activities.
“Children lose their capacity to think and forget the difference between people,” she said.
However, the report explains some of the incidents where the accused are normal and were neither alcoholics nor drug users.
When asked about the steps taken by Human Rights Commission, Jayakumar, an official said, “Kerala society has undergone a lot of change and it is unfortunate that not all changes are for good. Running behind the pleasures of life has compelled all of us to leave behind sentiments as well. This is one of the major reasons why parents become a headache to children and are being admitted to old age homes. However, none of us realise that admitting our parents to these old age homes also sends out a message that they have no guardian who is responsible for their well being. In case such cases, forced labour and sexual harassment will definitely increase.”
He added that there is also a flipside to the same and that the commission had registered a Suo Moto case in an incident where an elderly woman was sexually harassed by a man living in her village. However, detailed investigation in the case revealed that the blame was baseless and that both had enmity towards each other.
Apart from a few cases like this the numbers of cases where these women are harassed is shocking. Many also lose their mental stability due to the trauma and depression they have to suffer.
Commenting on the helplessness of the authorities to take an action against such incidents, Kochi head of Human Rights Law Network, Sandhya Raju said, “Sexual harassment cases are still considered as a taboo and people find it embarrassing to share such an incident even though one has to go through it repeatedly. If this is the case then the situation of elderly people cannot be even imagined. We have had many instances where women come up to us and say they have been raped but are not ready to seek a legal recourse once we suggest they approach the police. There have been cases where women have been sexually exploited by their sons-in-law and therefore they do not complain fearing that their daughter’s life would be ruined. Unless women come out and bring such things to the knowledge of the police and judiciary nothing much can be done in this regard.”
The matter of concern is that even the police force is unable to do anything as the majority of cases are not reported.
Main photograph by Julia Maudlin via Flickr.