A True Story of Sexual Abuse of Minor Girls at the Madrassa in Kerala

I encountered a friend of mine at a public event a fortnight ago. During our conversation, she brought up several topics and inquired, “Aren’t you the person, Sauda, known for fearlessly sharing various experiences and writings on social media…?” Intrigued, she requested me to write something for her as well, but with a crucial condition: to never disclose her identity.

Understanding her concerns, I assured her that I would respect her wish and refrain from revealing her identity. She entrusted me with a story she desired to be shared, emphasizing the significance of maintaining her anonymity.

My Time in Madrassa

On that day, the ustad arrived at a nearby house and gathered us together on a mat spread out on the floor inside the room. His role was to teach us the recitation of the Qur’an. Adjacent to us, at a slight distance, there was a stool and a table, seemingly left by the ustad. As instructed, all the children began reciting the Qur’an, fully engrossed in the verses.

Amidst the collective focus on the sacred text, one of the children would be summoned to the table. The ustad would draw them near, holding the child close to him. During that era, girls would typically wear skirts that were locally stitched. These skirts would feature two ribbons used to fasten them around the waist. When such skirts were worn, by securing them with the ribbons, a gap would form on either the left or right side of the waist. On that particular day, it was my turn, and as the Ustad called me, I stood by his side and commenced reciting the Quran. As I was reciting, I suddenly noticed that ustad’s hand was sliding in through that slit. But… That hand didn’t stop there either. Slowly he lowered it into my underwear to the desired side. For a moment I felt as if I had completely lost my mobility in shock, and I couldn’t move.  His hand remained inside my undergarments until I finished reciting it all.

I was studying in the 7th stanadard in school.  About 12 years old, that is, close to puberty. When I had the same experience twice, I didn’t want to go to the madrasa. My mother grabbed me and started beating me. No matter how much I was beaten, I remained adamant without uttering anything.  When my father came home,  he beat me up inside the bathroom. I endured mentally and physically that day beyond what I could bear. No matter how much I cried despite writhing in pain, they didn’t stop. I too could not convince them of the truth out of fear.

Who would have believed me if I had shared what had transpired? It is likely that people would have dismissed it, claiming that I was merely trying to shift blame onto the ustad in order to avoid attending the madrassa. Eventually, unable to tolerate the situation any longer, I had no choice but to express my refusal to continue under that particular ustad, requesting to be sent to another madrasa instead.

Subsequently, someone intervened and probed into the matter, leading to an opportunity for me to reveal the reprehensible and indecent treatment I had endured.

This was the account shared with me by my friend.

In such circumstances, how many fathers and mothers would truly understand the plight of their children? According to my friend, it is highly likely that numerous girls in our class had also fallen victim to the ustad’s actions. However, how many of them came forward to voice their grievances? This is the advantage that perpetrators often exploit.

It is heartbreaking to contemplate the extent of the suffering endured by these young girls due to the actions of such wicked individuals. The mental trauma they have experienced is unimaginable. Even as my friend shared this painful narrative with me, I could sense the lingering anger and agony she felt that day. It is disheartening that if a woman’s veil slips even slightly, there are those who will take to the stage, vociferously accusing her of disloyalty to her faith.

Why should it be deemed special if a man and a woman willingly engage in consensual sexual activity? In their eyes, it is considered adultery. However, when they find opportunities to exploit young girls, it appears as if it means nothing. It is deeply concerning that these young girls are subjected to such mistreatment, especially considering their age, which is comparable to that of the ustads’ own grandchildren. (Please note that this remark does not apply to all ustads.) The frequency of news reports detailing such incidents involving ustads is alarmingly high.

In my view, there are very few individuals who have not encountered such experiences with ustads. However, the prevailing fear prevents them from speaking out. Even during my time as a student, I witnessed girls in my class who faced failures yet were subjected to inappropriate gestures by the ustads after being asked to approach them. The sight was truly repugnant.

There exists a group of individuals who persistently propagate the notion that women possess only half the intelligence of men, indoctrinating such beliefs into their minds and rendering them devoid of worth. Is this truly the direction we should be heading? Regrettably, women continue to be objectified and discussed solely in terms of their sexuality, as if their bodies are one of the world’s paramount issues that disrupt the very balance of our planet.

In which areas are girls given the chance today to showcase their talents and skills? Are the girls of today not capable of rewriting the narratives that have been perpetuated for ages? It is predictable that some will assert that this signifies the impending end of the world.

If the end of the world does not occur when such vile acts are committed by religious figures with innocent children, one might argue that it should happen now, even without any reason. I refuse to turn a blind eye to it.

Translated from a Facebook post written by Saudha, a Malayalam author

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