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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Wrong Kind of Loving

Again, scanning through the newspaper in the morning, I came across something that I didn't think of being particularly important or even relevant to the Indian context. The headline was about the National Online Registry of sex offenders coming into effect today, or being 'opened' today. At first, it made me wonder about why. Why would you make something like that nationally available so that a person will be haunted no matter where s/he goes. On the other hand, however, the obvious argument is that this person is considered to still be dangerous, and so it is upto the other 'folk' in the area to be informed/warned about the presence of such an individual in their midst. What kind of conversation would that make for?

"Hi. My name is Jerry. I just moved into the house down the street."

"Ooooh. YOU'RE the sex offender we were told about. Nice to finally meet you..."

It's a stigma. And that's the crazy thing about humanity. On the one hand people will walk around preaching about forgiveness and "forgive and forget". But on the other hand, they'd rather lock someone up and throw away the key. It's an issue of social trust, I think. The moment someone does something that goes against what's considered moral and 'right' s/he breaks the trust of society as a whole. From that point on, how this person is dealt with and people's reactions to this person are dictated by the imaginary book of social norms and protocol. The 'offender' has to "prove" her/himself as having been reformed or being penitent after the 'crime' is committed, before being accepted back into the flods of society; even then there is a label that attaches itself to this individual. And no one ever makes an attempt to see how this person will improve, or more importantly, if the person is receiving access to the best avenues for improvement. Once a criminal always a criminal is a truth that many are more than happy to accept. Les Miserables is a good example of this. But why? Is it just human nature to protect some and leave the others out to die?

Anyway, seeing this article prompted me to look into whether or not such a thing exists in India...and the answer, no prizes for guessing, is no. In fact, and not to make this 'great' nation sound bad or anything, there are a whole host of crimes against humanity that occur daily. It's shocking really. Anything from Female Infanticide, to Rape, to Sex Tourism, to Dowry Killing, to even the Trade in Human Organs and Child Labor is rampant in India. The causes? Lack of education and awareness, and more importantly, lack of identification. You can drill it into a person that doing these things is 'wrong'. But as long as they're unable to identify it as being part of the larger picture, they'll continue doing it. "No time to think about the world, I have a hard enough time getting through life by myself" seems to be the attitude of most people here. So, what of the oppressed, the down-trodden, the 'wronged'..." What do they do? What CAN they do? In many cases, if not all of them, the "might is right" system is the way things are dealt with. All the 'offenders' have to be are male, wealthy, and connected. Well, the last two are kind of synonymous, but it's the first point which makes a lot of difference here in India. Unfortunate, no doubt... And so, there really isn't a point at where one can begin. It's the frustrating experience of seeing something happen before your eyes, and knowing that the only support you get will be too little too late, and absolutely useless! Are things changing? Perhaps, but with close to 3 times the population of the US, any measure of this scale is a long way ahead of us. I started looking out for stuff and I came across a couple of sites with legal information and a few gruesome stories to tell.

1) "Prosecution of Paedophiles: Not a State Priority?" by Nishtha Desai, from NWMI (Network of Women in Media, India)
2) "When Childhood is Threatened" by Cynthia Rodrigues, from Womenexcel.com
3) "Sexual Harassment and Rape Laws in India" by Dhruv Desai

Well, here's hoping that the human race manages to stay civil and 'humane' to its own kind.
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