Saturday, 16 February 2013

Breaking The Nexus Between Moralism And Crime

1. A conventional moral maxim or attitude.
2. The act or practice of moralizing.
3. Often undue concern for morality.

Yesterday, I updated my blog post on outrageous statements with the latest one by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (Society for Awakening the Hindu People):

Since the Bharatiya (Indian) youth is turning towards indulgence by blindly following westerners, it has been noticed that the sale of contraceptives peaks on this day [Valentine's Day].....This leads to a rise in incidents of rapes and other atrocities.

What?? What is the blinking connection between the rise in the use of contraceptives and the rise in incidents of rape?

I spent a while shaking my head in disbelief at how stupid people can be, and then I had an epiphany.

While almost everybody condemns rape, they don't all do it for the same reasons.

I condemn rape because it violates the rights of a human being. The HJS leader's statement (and those of others before him) suggests that many people condemn rape primarily because they see it as a loss of honour! And they are probably more concerned with the honour of families and communities, since a dishonoured woman can simply be made to hide from public view, or in extreme cases, be killed to "redeem her family's honour". That's the connection then, between rape and promiscuity, which is what the rise in the sale of contraceptives is meant to indicate. Both are violations of perceived notions of honour.

So let me confront this issue head-on, and address the traditionalists in society:

There is a big difference between sexual promiscuity and rape. You may not like to see increased sexual promiscuity in society, but no one is getting hurt, and so it is not a crime, no matter how much you may hate it. Rape violates the rights of a human being, and so it is a crime.

My painting that I blogged about earlier was an attempt to put the stigma of rape back where it belonged, i.e., not on the victim but on the offender, because this is a crime, not an issue of "honour".

The notion of "honour" perverts our notions of right and wrong. It makes us insensitive to human rights. And so, it is not enough to condemn rape. It is crucially important to condemn it for the right reasons, otherwise we are headed for a Talibanisation of society.

"But we don't want to see Indian society becoming like the West!"

The polite way to answer this objection is that democracy is utterly incompatible with restrictions on people's private lives. I'm tempted to express a less polite opinion, though: With the number of old fogies holding such views,  I hope they do us all a favour and die already.

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