The recent news-story about the 12-year-old girl who was impregnated by her 17-year-old brother, possibly through rape, once again brought home to me the inability of most Indians to deal with the subject of sex. The parents in this case apparently did not discover that the girl was pregnant until the 27th week of pregnancy, when a gynecologist informed them of her condition.
“How could they not have noticed that their daugh ter was in such a late stage of pregnancy,” many Indian Americans have asked me. My answer is they didn’t know because they didn’t wish to. Denial is a powerful motivation, psychologists say, and one that will drive people to be deaf, mute, and blind. And Indians have a tendency to avoid facing up to sexuality, in themselves, and their children.
My own parents never acknowledged my sexuality.
Physiology, reproduction, sex, were topics never dis cussed in our household. My mother had not even informed me of adolescence and the changes that a female body underwent as a result, so that when I first got my period, I thought I was bleeding to death. My experience was far from unique; parents of my friends also felt deeply uncomfortable about talking about sex.
Luckily, I did not grow up in a society bombarded with sexual images, right from the McNeil Lehrer Newshour down to the Internet. Most high-schoolers here, however, become pressure cookers of sexual angst, ready to explode at the slightest trigger.
During my first few years here as an American yuppie, I was often shocked at the repressed lives many second generation Indian kids lived. Most would not have dared to ask permission to go dating or to the prom. How could they resist the temptation, I wondered, when I felt the urge to have a boyfriend, to wear a string bikini? But their parents lived as if America didn’t exist, as if SAT scores and GPA were the only indicators of happiness.
The Indian press here has maintained this bias for two decades, with the result that most publications even today are full of profiles of over-achievers, while social issues such as race and sex are pushed under the rug.
Is it any surprise then that I found the Indian American media’s coverage of the recent incestuous pregnancy and a resulting late term abortion coy to the point of idiocy? “We don’t have separate bedrooms in India,” one publication claimed, “so the parents didn’t realize this could happen. They are in a state of shock,
etc., etc., etc.”
An ancient civilization that has maintained sophisticated codes of conduct for men and women for milennia is claiming not to have known about the birds and the bees? Are we so hypocritical as to claim that the same parents who will be scrambling to arrange their son’s marriage in a few years did not know that he was a sexual creature? Come on!
What kind of impression are we trying to create about our community in America? That we are ignorant to the point of not knowing the facts of life? That we are Peter Sellers stereotypes, bumbling through the Ameri can landscape? No wonder the Indian community is so often the target of the worst kind of racist insults on television and in newspapers.
It is true that the shortage of space in Indian households often necessitates the sharing of rooms; but that doesn’t mean that people put adolescent brothers and sisters in the same bed. In fact Indian household life is governed by strict albeit unwritten codes of conduct, designed to protect the very kind of situation that arose in this tragic case.
A close proximity between brothers and sisters doesn’t always end in incest. Clearly, something went horribly wrong in this family and resulted in assault on a very young girl. It is unforgivable for the community to now excuse this grievous crime because the family recently immigrated to the U.S. .
Political correctness has prompted the mainstream media to shy away from commenting on this outrageous incident. It has instead mimicked the Indian community’s concerns about the boy’s immigration status. This happens to be just another example of America bending over backwards to accommodate the alleged cultural idiosyncrasies of its minority communi ties, even if they result in crimes against women. Would it be possible for the media and the justice system to excuse this crime if it were committed by a 17-year-old white male?
The Indian community must stand behind the authorities and demand a full investigation of the incident. .If found guilty, the boy must be punished; and deported if necessary. We must abide by the laws of the land that we have chosen as our home. Only then will we be fit to receive the fruits of its riches. ◻