Cultural policing has always been an extended arm of fundamentalism. Ironically, in Tamilnadu, radical liberals are resorting to it.
Kushboo’s controversy, merrily celebrated by media, seems to be an outbreak of personality clashes rather than a rage propelled by moral concern. Only a few weeks ago Ms.Kushboo braved filmmaker Mr. Thangarbatchan , for his disparaging remarks on actresses. Thangar is a vociferous campaigner for Tamizh Padukappu Iyakkam, an outfit that enjoys the patronage of Dr. Ramdoss of PMK and Mr. Thirumavalavan of Dalit Panthers.
Both Dr.Ramdoss and Mr.Thirumavalavan have held Periyar E.V.Ramasamy in high esteem and have said that they drew their inspiration for social work from him. But Periyar had far different ideas on the institution of marriage and ‘karrpu’(chastity).He held that marriage is a crime and demanded penal provisions under Criminal Procedure Code for indulging in such act..
He argues, love, lust, desire, friendship, covet, yearnings and sexual urge, between a man and woman are absolutely personal and any third person- whether man or woman- has a right to speak, force or determine on this. He equates this with a person eating his favorite food at the restaurant of his choice and shopping at his favorite mall. Personal gratification and liberty plays a deciding role in these acts and any intrusion in them is unwarranted, unnecessary and displays an attitude to dictate.
Unfortunately, of late, in the homeland of Periyar, such an attitude is gaining ground. Recently Anna University came out with a dress code banning jeans in their campus; in the pretext it is sexy. This in essence is not falling short of Taliban’s fatwa directing women news casters in televisions to wear purdah. Such codes are drafted in our society mostly either with an intention to protect woman or with a suspicion that they woo men to sex. Both the views treat women as dumb idiots having no social sensitivity and ability to make their decisions on their attire. Hardly this glorifies women but displays the self assumed authority of men over woman. Any attempts to legitimize these edicts are an assault on women’s dignity.
Last year, a film lyricist, demanded a bonfire of Tamil poems by some women poets as they were trying to speak about the woman sexuality. Another lyricist questioned about their morality. These poets had no objection to film lyrics (synthesized mostly at men’s mind) that were lusciously describing women and their organs. Their anger was not against provocative literature. They were incensed because women had taken to such writing.
Hypocrisy has become a hallmark of our society. The protagonists of Kushboo have hardly protested against the portrayal of women in our films, television soaps, and in the rest of the media. They present woman as either ‘weaker’ sex sobbing all the time against the villainy of mother in –law/sister in laws or as glamour queens gyrating their hips for a man’s nod. If Tamil news media can be trusted, juvenile rapes, adultery, incest, sexual abuse at work places, eve-teasing at the street corners even molestation of senior woman citizens are becoming uncommon. This hardly reflects the Tamil culture. Has any thing been done about this by these self appointed sentinels of Tamil Culture?
Any assumption that promiscuity is not widely prevalent in Tamilnadu would be akin to living in fools paradise. Tamilnadu is home to 24,667 people living with HIV/AIDS, or over half of the AIDS victims in this country. Of the 49 high prevalence HIV/AIDS districts in India, seven are in Tamilnadu.. Officially reported AIDS cases from hospitals and clinics across the state show a rapid rise of the syndrome. The AIDS cases have raised from 9,714 in March 2001 to 24,667 through August 2003 shows the disease is rapidly gaining ground. The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) classifies the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tamilnadu as high prevalence, with five percent or more of high-risk groups testing positive and one percent or more of women in antenatal clinics testing positive. These are very high rates for women in the general population
It is time for guardians of Tamil culture to raise their voice in favor of sex education in schools. What is needed is a well orchestrated campaign against casual sex rather than belligerent agitation against casual remarks customized in media for sake of sensation.
Tackling a ticking time bomb is the need of the hour rather than the fireworks.