Respect for the law starts at home

Another Indian couple is at the centre of a parenting storm in Norway, where they have been arrested for allegedly mistreating their son. Their abuse would not have come to light had the seven-year-old boy not wetted his pants in school and was reluctant to go home for the fear of being reprimanded by his parents.

Last night, it came to light that the parents not only scolded him for wetting his pants, but also repeatedly abused him for five years by scalding him with burnt metal and beating him with a leather belt. This is brutal by any standards, and in Norway, where they take child rights seriously, the couple has been jailed. Rightly so.

Even if India has laws to protect children from physical abuse, the execution has been lax, and many families keep quiet about physical “punishment” as they believe it is an essential tool to discipline a child. However, “parenting”, too, has evolved, and fewer parents today punish their children physically. Despite the probable drop, there is still a large constituency that believes a beating would discipline him or her.

But there is indeed a stark difference between occasionally spanking a child and child abuse. What the couple in Norway did was to abuse their son. So traumatised was he that wetting his pants possibly became a defence mechanism to deal with the stress. In that context, what the Norwegian authorities did was perfectly legal and apt.

Thankfully, the Indian media did not go berserk as it did the last time when another Indian couple’s children were taken away by the social services department. In this case, the abuse was more or less clear, and media houses waited until all the details were provided by the authorities to pass judgment.

The Indian government would do well to respect Norwegian laws and not interfere in its judicial process only because the parents involved are Indian. If they are criminals, they should be treated as such.

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