History and mythology is laden with incestuous tales. For the royalty of Egypt, incest was a way of life. Father -daughter, mother -son and brother -sister unions were the order of the day. The Ptolemies, from whom the iconic beauty Cleopatra
sprang forth, were classic examples.
The story of Oedipus is another famous fable, of a man who murdered his father and mated with his mother, only to wind his way down to destruction.
A Community Crime
Religious books and historical texts carry several such decadent stories; some proven, while others are not.
Most communities in the world consider incest to be a crime worthy of punishment. It is widely considered to be a 'taboo
'. But, what amounts to incest varies among communities.
Acts of sex between the parent and progeny or between siblings is universally abhorred and is considered a punishable offense.
In India, with its teeming communities and sub castes, the definition of incest varies according to local beliefs and practices. Some communities encourage cousin marriages and uncle - niece marriages, while others forbid marriages between members of the same lineage! Types
Incest mostly takes place between an adult and a prepubescent or an adolescent, which amounts to child abuse
, involving rape. The most common form of this sexual act takes place between the father and the daughter, although several cases involving brother- sister, mother-son/daughter are also reported. Uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents are also reported to dabble in this sordid crime.
Incest may also occur between two consenting adults
in which case it is seen, by some, as a crime without a victim. This kind of indulgence is, thankfully, very rare. It is known to occur when individuals have been dissociated very early in life. The Trauma of Incest
Nearly 20% of all womanhood are believed to have experienced incest before their eighteenth year.
When an adult, specially a parent, abuses a child it most certainly results in a severe form of psychological trauma
in the victim. This ordeal is often long- lasting and is of a serious nature.
Some of the common symptoms that the victims suffer, when they become adults, are listed below-
• Low self-esteem
• Tumultuous inter-personal relationships
• Sexual dysfunction
• Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders, somatoform disorder Why incest is a 'no-no'
The children born to incestuous couples are not destined to enjoy the same quality of life as others in the society. Even science does not recommend in- breeding, as the 'products' of consanguineous unions are more prone to congenital defects
Besides, the children born to incestuous couples may be forced to face social stigmatization
Incest, is a thought, a gesture or an act that shadows our credibility
as humans. There may be many reasons for the act itself but it cannot be denied that the basic reason is the inability to differentiate between right and wrong.
Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers are all extensions of oneself. An act of incest is an act of violation
- on the self and on the hope that nurtures humanity. By spreading awareness and fighting complacence let us prevail upon the inherent human goodness to curtail this abominable act!
Dr. REEJA THARU/L