Growing up as a desi kid in Saudi – we had 2 channels, 1 Arabic and 1 English, where the English one was recurrently interrupted for soccer (still something I dislike) – Indian movies were a major source of entertainment. These were the pre-internet and pre satellite days...gawsh I feel old.
Often on a scorching Saudi Arabian afternoon when the sun made the sidewalk hot enough to fry an egg on – When I wasn't burning to a crisp by the pool, I stayed in and watched and rewatched some of the Indian movie ‘classics’ that we owned on VHS or Betamax. There are two that I can remember in particular. Mr. India, obviously…and Khoon Bhari Maang. The latter had Kabir Bedi in an awesome villainous role. Where he swooped in and married his dead friends wife, then planned to kill her to inherit her family fortune. He pushed her into crocodile infested waters (which I'm not entirely sure exist in India – but that’s the kind of thing that makes old school movies great). And in true Bollywood manner, she came back with a vengeance. He was Badass. And so was she (Rekha).
Please see my version below for a rough idea of what happens (click to enlarge):
Note: I may have paraphrased a tiny little bit.
I’d watch that movie anytime, anywhere. In fact, recently it was showing on a local Canadian channel, and I watched it with a bunch of gora friends. Which was a hillarious experience in itself.
But – I digress. This blog is definitely not one about Bollywood, or Lollywood… (sometimes it is about gettin' ‘wood’ though –sorry couldn’t resist the lame joke.)
However, the reason I mention Mr. Bedi is because he got me reading about an interesting/controversial law that’s about to be passed in India. He Tweeted;
And whaddaya know he fuckin’ responded. Eeeeeeek! Like I said, I don’t often get starstruck… but the guy from one of my childhood favourites…responding to my tweet!! That'll do it.
“The Indian government is poised to approve a much-needed and long overdue step toward protecting our children. The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, defines sexual abuse of children under ‘assault’, ‘harassment’ and ‘(use of children in) pornography’ and prescribes punishment to offenders that can extend up to life imprisonment.”
“According to the newspaper, under the revised law, any sex with an underage person – even if consensual – will be considered statutory rape, and will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act, carrying a maximum punishment of three years in jail.”
(sounds like a good law so far, but the question burning in the back of my mind is… what about consensual sex between minors?)
“Other experts, however, point out that sex with anyone under 18 will indeed be criminal if – and only if – one of the parties is an adult. “The purpose of the law is to protect children – understood as being upto 18 years of age – from the unwanted sexual advances of adults. The proposed law does not in any way deal with consensual or otherwise sex between and among minors,” says activist Pinki Virani.”
(If this is indeed the case, then this law is pretty airtight. But I hope that this is all clearly specified…because if it isn’t I can think of a million and one ways that fundamentalists and parents, cops, etc will abuse this.)
“Irrespective of the ‘age of consent’ controversy, there is no doubt that the law will be the first big step in setting the context for a ‘societal and attitudinal mindset change’ needed for children and adults to speak out against child sexual abuse and report offenders. Worldwide only 12-18 per cent of the children even disclose, leave alone report, being sexually abused.”
(an awful, awful problem that needs to be dealt with in Pakistan too)
"The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared a Bill that seeks to raise the age of legal sex from 16 to 18, provoking sharp criticism from child rights activists, who called it a regressive step"
"The legislation makes India an exception among democracies that have stuck to 16 years as the age for legal sex."
"While the UK has 16 as its age of consent, Canada and the US follow a nuanced approach exempting minors of the same age or close-in-age from punishment."
(which is what I assumed the law would specify, but I guess not. So who are they going to accuse as ‘the rapist’ in a case where two 16 yr olds have had consensual sex?)
"Former Law Commission member Kirti Singh criticized it saying that this would amount to 'criminalizing' sex between young people, 'The remedy to young people indulging in sexual activity is not by clamping down through law and enforcement. This will have a negative impact on the false cases of rape, kidnapping and honour killing.' "
"Bharti Ali of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights was equally scathing. She termed it a 'ridiculous' amendment and a statement on the Indian attitude towards sex. 'We don't want to talk about sex with our children and when they want to explore, we put them behind bars. This will only be misused by police and sends a wrong signal to children,' she added."
* * *
So upon further research into the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Bill, turns out that Mr. Bedi's got the right idea after all. Perhaps I was looking at it from too Western a perspective when I naturally assumed that this bill wouldn't target consensual sex between two people under the new age of consent (18). Since that's how it works in Canada. But heck, it seems like the wording's open to interpretation. And knowing Desi society, it'll be twisted to control consensual sexual activity between people under 18.
Now I'm not saying that all teenagers should be encouraged to get out and get laid. But if some find themselves naturally in such a situation, they are definitely old enough to make their own decisions.
The Government can equip young people with sexual education, awareness, pamphlets, condoms and other such tools, but the government should not be making this decision for them.
Of course the situation is entirely different when one of the people involved is over 18, in that case... this bill is a step forward. But until this part is laid out in clear terms....it could definitely be seen as a way to criminalize consensual sexual activity...and that is a step backward.
Its a crazy kinda tango us desis do with 'sexuality' 1 step forward, 2 steps back... We're not sure we know how to feel about it.
* * *
After reading all this I tweeted Mr. Bedi, and omfg - he retweeted me!