Pedophilia : Another sign of social degradation and what can be done?

Rifat Zahan:

Although I don’t think there is any need to give a definition, I will still share it-People who are sexually aroused by the sight of young children are called pedophiles. Suffering from this disease is called suffering from pedophilia.

I have seen many such people in my life. If I write about them, epic poems will be written beyond Meghnad Badh Kavya. I don’t want to relive that traumatic feeling here. But a bad experience teaches us a great deal. I am still learning from many teachings. When I was in the grip of these pedophiles as a child, I thought, “What if there were the rules of Jahelia (ignorance)? If my parents would have killed me for the crime of giving birth to a baby girl like an ancient Arab, then I would not have had to go through this trouble.

Girl, lady, woman – no matter what name we are called, we are still not held in high esteem in society. Especially in Bangladesh, as I used to go through such sexual harassment constantly at different ages in my life. Even today, it is not like such harassment has stopped in Bangladesh. As a result, the era of ignorance is still going on. It seems like just because a baby girl can’t be buried alive, they can be dishonoured while still being alive.

I became aware in life because of these incidents. We need to keep our eyes open so that no child falls into the clutches of such sick people. My family members are told to be careful about who the children are being given to. Children cannot be given in the arms of any men, even if they are part of the family or distant relatives.

There are many types of stigmas related to mental health in our country, Bangladesh. Treatment for mental health is a matter of ‘shame’. Of this stigma, almost everyone loves to live with the disease, except for a few exceptions. If someone in the family has pedophilia, it is supposed to be known by other family members. But such a sick person does not receive any treatment because getting mental health treatment is a ‘shame’. This is a strange sick mentality that people in society have!

I have been living in the city of Saskatoon in Canada for many years. We, many people from the Bangladeshi community know at least four such pedophiles in Saskatoon. Whenever I go to any event, I keep my eyes on them. I warn the mothers of children I know not to put their children in this man’s arms. Most of the parents seem to have a good relationship with the family members of these pedophiles. So they are aware but don’t say anything directly either to the person or the relatives.

One day I was enjoying a cultural program from the Bangladeshi community. One of the babies’ parents was busy organizing the event and socializing with others and they asked one of their trusted (!) friends to babysit their 7-month-old daughter. I saw even in that crowd how that man was holding the child and trying to go into a less crowded area. While holding the child, his hands are placed in a strange manner on the lower part of the baby’s body. It was clear that the man was trying to do something. Usually, such people look very brave, but in reality, they are cowards, and I know them. I stared at that man. The man was shocked to see me staring at him. I immediately went to the child’s mother and said, “Don’t give the child in this man’s lap.” Please babysit your child by yourselves. The lady gripped my hand nervously. His hands are ice cold. She is not getting what kind of perverse joy the man can have for 7 months old?  She immediately went to talk to her husband. 

I came home. My duty as an aware and responsible individual was to inform the parent, and I did that.

Then I heard a heartbreaking story from the baby’s mother. Her husband says he does not want to accept that his friend could do such a heinous act with the baby. The couple had a big fight in the house. 

I was not at all surprised to hear everything the lady said. Because men go through such experiences less than women as a child. Men in Bangladesh or Bangladeshi men abroad are less familiar with people with such a sick mentality. Even if they are aware, such numbers are very low. I tried to calm down the lady and told her to talk to her husband when the situation calmed down.

Education about pedophiles should actually start from the family. As I grew older, I spoke openly about these lived experiences with my family members, including my brother and my husband after marriage. I explained to them that we, girls often go through such situations on a day-to-day basis. We are subjected to these insults by people of all ages. But girls suppress such experiences and the valid negative emotions related to them. They fear their social dignity. How so? When we were young, we were taught that if someone knows the dark part of our lives, we will never be able to get married.

What a strange mentality! But no one could ever teach us that even after knowing the dark chapter of my life, the person, who would love me despite any chapters of my life should be my life partner. As long as I was single, or newly married, I thought about the honour of everyone in the family and kept these experiences silent. But now I realize at this stage of my life that society talks a lot about ‘women empowerment’, if a person like me does not dare to say about such experiences, I do not help others to be aware of such events, then what happens when you play the game of saving the family and saving their ‘dignity’?

My husband, my life partner, and the love of my life gave me a lot of courage in this regard. He always listened carefully to such experiences of mine. He brought me closer to him. He told me that one day I will write awareness about of such experiences, and he will wait for that writing. If we are not aware, how will everyone be aware? I am here to open up my heart so that the children of our family do not go through the situations that I have been through for the majority of my life back home.

The research on pedophilia in Bangladesh is extremely limited. Some systematic keyword searches on scientific article databases (e.g., Medline, PubMed, and Google Scholar) did not return any results for pedophilia in Bangladesh. 

Pedophilia is a complex problem that needs to be researched at a Systems Science level. There are too many interconnected components in the pedophilia system that includes but are not limited to the person living with pedophilia, their socio-economic and demographic status, adverse childhood experiences, the victim, the healthcare system for the treatment of pedophilia, and society’s role. The researchers can play a major role when it comes to pedophilia in the context of Bangladesh. Research can be conducted on the social, mental, behavioral, and other factors for a person to transition into pedophilia. Scientific investigation can also be conducted to see how pedophilia is impacting individuals, families, and the population at large.  

Healthcare workers may also provide early intervention support to the person living with pedophilia. Families can play a proactive role in aiding such intervention support by breaking out mental health stigma. 

Stakeholders from different levels can be invited to such system conceptualization. For example, law enforcement authorities, healthcare providers, and researchers from many relevant fields may join in this conceptualization and identify key areas to be researched. The plethora of smartphone data collection tools and access to internet-based services have made it easier to conduct research worldwide. Therefore, such tools can be used to collect data and conduct some feasibility studies. 

Bangladesh has come so far in defeating many important health and social problems. Bangladesh can go even further in defeating another mental and social problem of ‘pedophilia’, and may help many people like me, who went through such adverse childhood experiences and also may prevent such events from even happening. 



About the writer:

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Computer Science, University of Saskatchewan, Canada.


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