Moral Policing: No Privacy, More Shame
Image Source: IndiaTvnews
Recently, the government lifted a ban on watching pornography after an overwhelming response decrying the move, because what you watch in the privacy of a room, SHOULD be your business not the government’s, right? However, why have we as a nation not addressed the issue of the government blackmailing couples through spurious raids in hotel rooms, when they’re already being harassed by the moral police for kissing?
In a country, where there is no privacy for the young, this kind of easy targeting ruins the balance of sexuality and freedom in an already repressed society. If two consenting adults want to have sex, what right does the government have to SHAME and blackmail them about it, for? Nobody has sex after announcing to the whole world that they are about to, because for a lot of people, including society and the government, it’s a private thing to be indulged in discreetly (or at least that is reasoning we are given about kissing). AFFECTION SHOULD BE PRIVATE. Okay, understood.
However, the deeper question is – how should this privacy be exercised? In the cities, a lot of couples either live with their families in small households without enough privacy to go to the bathroom let alone, get a person of the opposite sex to their home without offending the whole locality and “destroying their family name” by being labelled as someone promiscuous, sleazy, cheap, easy or worst of all (Outrageous GASP!!!) – a sex worker. In a culture where the parent-child relationship is considered sacred, forget having sex, but even making out in the same house as them or even doing it in your own house while they are absent (those who are lucky) would be considered pathologically sickening at its worst or weird at the least.
So what is the other option? “Friend’s house?” Not likely. Not everyone has friends who have empty houses that they rent/lend to friends for sexual enoyment. Aside from downright humiliating and strange this can also be a favour that most people would not like to take from friends in lieu of being blackmailed later. Considering all the list of options, only Marriage (which is a very big life decision that SHOULD never depend on sexual curiosity or experimentation) an anonymous hotel or abstinence (celibacy) remain.
Let’s start with celibacy. Do we really think, in a country with the third largest population, owing to a VERY DEEP gap between sexual education, sexual health and sexual practice we will actually able to stop young people with raging hormones, curiosity and a host of issues about their personality, ambition and identity; from having any sex at all? That’s the worst kind of unrealistic expectation that has caused the population issue in the first place- unrealistic body images and expectations. There is a reason sex is one of our basic needs along with food and shelter.
Coming to the idea of marriage, any RATIONAL, LOGICAL person will understand that marriage is an institution that is SUPPOSED TO legalize monogamy and the domestic securityof individuals who CONSENT to living with each other and sharing legal responsibilities as well as sexual ones. The most important, sacred and holy of all the things next to GOD in this universe for those who believe in such a concept, and even for those who don’t is and SHOULD be CONSENT.
However, in most cases and especially in this country, nothing happens with the consent of the people who are the MOST AFFECTED from decisions. Those in power- the authority figures such as parents for example, usually are the ones who use their unlimited pool of consent as a tool to stamp and approve the sexual union of their children thinking they know what is best for them. Any good statistical study will show you that this is not the case. Like a popular and rather tart message making the rounds since sometime, apply summarizes, “Our parents tell us ‘Never to talk to strangers’ yet ask us to sleep with one after marriage.” Next, come the real challenges of a marriage and the responsibilities that make it the hallowed and sacred union it is supposed to be. Honestly, however, how many of the people in this country can say that their parents’ marriage was perfect or any marriage for that matter is perfect? Like any other relationship, it is not. If marriages were the magic resolution to solving the issue of rapes, unwanted pregnancies, prostitution or adultery by enlightening the heathens, there would be no marital rape (because ANY sex without consent or force is RAPE and a man or woman’s god-given right as a spouse does not make it any less of a moral crime, even if this country refuses to acknowledge it), domestic abuse, extra-marital adultery or prostitution ( you will NOT be surprised to know how many prostitutes have confirmed of servicing married clients).
Now, seeing that we have some of the most hassling options out of the way, what would ideally be the most anonymous, private, safe, guilt-free and fun option of spending some romantic, intimate or sexually-thrilling/ enlightening time with someone we really like, enjoy being with a lot, love or, wish to/are about to marry? A HOTEL ROOM where we respectfully pay for the services of availing some privacy from our family home as well as the undesirability of gossiping aunties, uncles, colonies, friends – you name it (who must have likely done or wanted the same thing when they were young) and as adults get to explore our sexuality/love towards someone, right? WRONG.
Because like every other kind of moral policing that blames “western culture” for harming our nation and corrupting the innocent with short-clothes, Chow Mein, cigarettes and sex, the police uses the all powerful battering ram that is the shaming of society; of the moral narrow mindedness of this country’s citizens -who blame all the ills of society on western culture without ever examining who or what really is causing the deeply inherent problems within our system- to BLACKMAIL, threaten, scare and hurt people who have not harmed anybody while indulging in a perfectly legal act of being with a loved one who is an ADULT and who has CONSENTED to the intimacy. These people, are often targeted under the pretext of “raids” and “disruption of sexual nexus’ involving sex-trafficking” which effectively silence all pleas and protestations of a person’s fundamental rights. Such fun, no?
As a person researching and working with NGO’s regarding real-life sex trafficking, let me tell you, the authorities who conduct raids on lover-bird hotels are the least likely to ever nab any real sex offenders. Harassing common people is their easiest way of extracting money or proving their usefulness in the force by conducting arbitrary “checks” which are nothing but an abuse of authority. Instead of a crack down on real rape-related issues, these authorities imply the horrifically flawed logic that any unmarried woman having sex is a prostitute and therefore must be punished (because prostitutes are not, human beings, right?)
Okay so you’re not yet going to a hotel to have some privacy and sex? Even then, this constant threat of looming authorities and moral garbage will haunt you, if you are one of the countless young couples or even group of friends who travel together around India, you will still be questioned about the status of your relationship as if you are committing a crime because of “out of wedlock travelling”.
The recently released film, Masaan highlights this excellent, corrupt and ruthless wolf-of –authority-in-sheep’s-clothing phenomenon, along with another film -Gulcharrey that some friends of my mine (Anubhav Syal , Varun Tandon , Amitesh Mukherjee ) made straight out of college, addressing this issue realistically. It is ironical how proud we feel of Masaan winning international Awards across the world, but wilfully ignore what it is trying to say about our cultural hypocrisy.
Personally I think, everybody young in this country is under the threat of this kind of moral bludgeoning, with the government and authorities stigmatizing our sexuality, our judgement as well as shaming our parents into repressing another generation of young people into thinking that sex between individuals of consenting age is bad, when it is not. Sexual abstinence will never happen and stigmatizing the issue with this kind of ridiculous reasoning and empathetic-bankruptcy will not lead to any kind of solution.
Though many people say that the youth are empowered, I don’t see that happening. Does having power or being a good person only mean something when you are a saint/monk practicing celibacy or making friends and falling in love with the consent of your parents? Isn’t coming of age hard enough, with suicidal and depressed teens always lurking in the background, with this added atrocity making well-adjusted young people also wanting to end their lives? This is unfortunate and criminal on a whole another level.
India is a country with the highest number of young people. We claim to be the largest well-functioning democracy. We push for young leaders who will change the way the world looks and imagines reality, but in truth we want the youth of this country to do all of it without their human needs and flaws (perhaps, they same we like our Gandhi and Gods to be). We want them to be sexless or authority (parent/state) abiding citizens who place God and some weird kind of “cultural” paradigm before engaging in the most natural, legal and basic of all human needs.
We might as well cut off the genitals of the unmarried young in this nation. Perhaps that will resolve all this country’s problems like MARRIAGE, INDIAN CULTURE and GOD have.
There are the bigger crimes in our world which everyone knows of and condemns, but these indignities, these psychological traumas like sexism, discrimination and humiliation are the smaller bricks that lay the foundation of injustice. You may think that you will never be a victim -that is what everyone thinks to comfort themselves, but let me tell you that if it is affecting this nation, affecting our world, it is affecting you and someday, you will too stand face to face with the burden of these smaller injustices or crimes as I call them.
– Garima Sharma, member of Central Board of Film Certification