Let us connect the dots. Min Zhu, Subrah Iyar’s partner in the founding of WebEx, raped his daughter Erin when she was 14 years old. Fourteen years later, Subrah went on court record denying Min’s sexual abuse of Erin and squandering WebEx shareholders’ assets in a futile attempt to cover up his partner’s incestuous rape. Which brings us to the question: How much “better” is Subrah getting to know his daughters?
|Marriage among the Kallans is said to depend entirely upon consanguinity. The most proper alliance is one between a man and the daughter of his father’s sister; and, if an individual has such a cousin, he must marry her, whatever disparity there may be between their respective ages. A boy, for example, of fifteen must marry such a cousin, even if she be thirty or forty years old, if her father insists upon his so doing. Failing a cousin of this sort, he must marry his aunt or his niece, or some near relative. If his father’s brother has a daughter, and insists upon his marrying her, he cannot refuse: and this whatever may be the woman’s age.
—Edgar Thurston, Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, Madras: Government Press, 1906, p. 53; also see Sir James George Frazer, Folk-Lore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend and Law, Vol. II, Macmillan and Co., 1919, p. 105, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship, Beacon Press, 1971, p. 428, a translation of Les structures élémentaires de la parenté, La Haye, Mouton et Co., 1967.
The rhetoric of sex with family members also appears in many later tantras such as the Guhyasamāja and Cakrasamvara Tantras. In its fifth chapter, the Guhyasamāja Tantra states that the adept who has sex with his mother, sister, or daughter can attain great success. In its thirty-third chapter, the Cakrasamvara Tantra describes sexual yogic practices to be undertaken with a consort and promises that if readers undertake these, even with female relatives, they will be liberated.
—Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, editor, Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions, ABC-CLIO, 2007, Volume 1, pp. 317-318.
Childhood in much of India begins with the young child being regularly masturbated by the mother, “high caste or low caste, the girl ‘to make her sleep well,’ the boy ‘to make him manly…’” This practice has been said to be widespread by many reliable observers, including Catherine Mayo—whose extensive investigations in India in the 1920s led to the first child marriage laws—a physician, an ethnologist, a religious scholar and a sociologist. As is the case with virtually all non-Western cultures, the child sleeps in the family bed for several years and regularly observes sexual intercourse between the parents. The extent to which Indian parents go beyond this and overtly have sex with the child cannot be determined. Rampal, the sociologist who recently did interviews modeled on the Kinsey studies about contemporary Indian sexual practices, concludes that “there is a lot of incest… It is hidden along with other secrets of families and rarely gets a chance to come out, like seduction at the hands of trusted friends of the family… To arrive at even a passable estimate of incest cases would be to touch the hornet’s nest… no one will ever confess to such a deed, therefore, any attempt to collect statistics may prove to be futile at present.”
Boys as well as girls are reported as being masturbated and raped by the men in the family, including fathers, older brothers, uncles and cousins. By the time children are four or five, they are usually taken to bed at night by others in the extended household. “A particular uncle may like her to sleep in his room, which is considered a great gesture of closeness.” As one girl describes it: “I hardly ever slept with my parents after I was four. I rotated almost every night between my various uncles and sometimes my grandmother. But it was difficult to have any space in her bed because all the grandsons slept in her bed… So I preferred to sleep in [uncle’s] bed, who was very nice and put his arms around me in winter.” This practice is similar to the customary sharing of their wives by brothers, who have free sexual access to each other’s wives, an ancient practice still approved of in some areas in India.
So acceptable is sex between close relatives in India that uncle-niece and cross-cousin marriages were preferred among certain Indian groups. As the old Indian proverb has it, “For a girl to be a virgin at ten years old, she must have neither brothers nor cousin nor father.” These sleeping patterns with relatives who live in common residences continue even after marriage, since husbands are often cold to wives, and sex with the husband’s younger brother is covertly encouraged by the family to give the wife someone to be “close” to. Grandfathers often call the little girls “my little wife,” give them candy and “play the role of an old seducer,” teasing them by saying “Don’t you want to marry me?” One observer stuns up traditional Indian sexual stimulation during childhood as follows: “The little Hindu girls are deflowered by the little boys with whom they play, and repeat together the erotic lessons which their parents have unwittingly taught them on account of the general promiscuity of family life throughout India. In all the little girls of less than ten years of age the complete hymen is wanting… Incest is often the rule rather than the exception.”
—Lloyd DeMause, “The Universality of Incest”, The Journal of Psychohistory, Fall 1991, Vol. 19, No. 2, footnotes omitted.
Close-knit family life in India masks an alarming amount of sexual abuse of children and teenage girls by family members, a new report suggests.
Delhi organisation RAHI said 76% of respondents to its survey had been abused when they were children—40% of those by a family member.
The report suggests that disbelief, denial and cover-up to preserve the family reputation is often put before the individual child.
—Daniel Lak, “India’s Hidden Incest”, BBC News, 22 January 1999.
[Subrah Iyar]’s family has grown through the years and the addition of his two daughters is one of the most treasured things in Iyar’s life. With 14-year-old Leena, who has a personality more like him and wants to be a lawyer, and 12-year-old Nikhita, who is more like her mother, yet wants to be a corporate leader just like her father, Iyar isn’t wasting any time getting to know his daughters better now that his workflow has leveled off. His children are only now starting to realize that their father is an important businessman with a great deal of responsibility.
—Diana Rohini LaVigne, “Subrah Iyar’s WebEx-ceptional Success: Capturing the Power of the Internet”, indianlifeandstyle.com.