An Oslo court Tuesday sentenced an Indian couple to jail after it found them guilty of abusing their child.
The court sentenced Vallabhaneni Chandrashekhar and his wife Anupama for 18 months and 15 months in prison respectively for “gross or repeated maltreatment” of their seven-year-old son, Sai Sriram.
"They are facing child abuse case and are charged with gross or repeated maltreatment of their child/children by threats, violence or other wrong, under section 219," Kurt Lir, Head of Prosecution, Oslo Police Department, said, according to a Rediff.com report.
"There were burn marks and scars on the body of the child, who has also been beaten by the belt," he added.
The couple from the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in India was arrested after their son had told his school authorities that his parents threatened to send him back to India for wetting his pants in the school bus.
The alleged abuse had happened between 2007 and March 2012, and the arrest was made nine months after the child had complained to the school authorities about his parents.
However, the parent’s relatives in India claimed that the couple was falsely convicted and the burn injuries and scares were due to an accidental contact with fire when the boy was in India.
The issue has raised uproar in India with several opposition lawmakers and the couple’s family and friends demanding the government intervention. The government had intervened earlier when another Indian couple was separated from their children under the child rights law in Norway.
However, the Indian government has declined the diplomatic interference in the latest case, stating that it is a legal process involving a private citizen and the law of the country he resides in. Norway has stringent childcare laws that forbid any kind of physical abuse of a child.
Parenting is culture specific in several regions of the world and the issue has also stirred a huge debate on parenting norms in India, where mild physical abuse such as a slap by hand or stick to discipline the child is considered normal.
The traditional view is that scolding and giving mild punishments to the child is a must for bringing up him or her as an obedient and well-mannered citizen, and corporal punishment is still practiced in many schools in the country.
However, the child right activists feel that it is time India strictly enforced the laws against the corporal punishment and child abuse by parents.
“Research all over the world has shown that violent methods are not good or healthy ways of parenting and teaching. The Norway episode ought to be a wake-up call for Indian parents, and those who lack skills in bringing up their children in a non-violent way, should be offered help and counseling,” wrote T S Sudhir on Firstpost.com.
“The parents, yes they do need to understand that there are guidelines and values which is there may not be in India, but abroad which they follow very strictly and if you decide to live abroad then you have to be Roman in Rome you don't have a choice,” Kushboo, an actor-turned-politician, told IBNLIVE.com
However, child right activists also opine that the punishment handed out to the parents in this case may traumatize the children as Sai Sriram and his two year old brother are constantly demanding to see their parents. The couple's children are currently living with their grandparents in India.
"Our biggest worry is how to handle the children because they are inquiring about their parents. They want to know because newspapers and television channels are carrying their pictures," said another family member, IANS reported.
The couple said they would appeal against the verdict in higher courts.