"Condom Machine sparks row in India"
I should have known. Sometimes you don't even need to wait to click the link to a news story to know this is something that is really REALLY going to piss you off. Now take this story which I got off Reuters; which talks about the opposition some Muslim groups have in Tamil Nadu against condom dispensing machines in the State. Why? Because they believe this will promote sex outside marriage. By the way, the party creating all the havoc calls itself the Muslim Progressive Party. Yeah, I really see how progressive they are.
India has over five million AIDS patients, second only to South Africa. I've been reading a lot on AIDS in India of late. Over the years I have to admit the Indian government has taken taken responsibility about the disease. I remember a time when we refused to admit we had a problem or release official numbers. (I don't know if we have accurate numbers now, but we're talking about it, and that IS something.) When you drive through Delhi now, you can see posters educating people about the nature of the disease- the radio is filled with programs as is the television. Clinton was talking about the work of his foundation in battling AIDS in various parts of the world on BBC. He mentioned that while India might have a large population that has contracted the disease, we also have a large army of doctors and nurses who have reached even the remotest of areas- something many other developing countries do not.
But at the same time, because of the sexual nature of the disease, it is so difficult to get people to look at it as a 'disease' in the first place. [I think the stigma somehow makes it seem that if you have AIDS you are clearly having yhr sort of sex you are not meant to be having.. homosexual, pre-marital, extra-marital... and God's punishing you.]Clearly the situation we face in the country at present is not good- but what annoys me so much is that while health workers, NGOs and (fortunately!!) the government is picking up the slack, you find some parties going on and on about morals and how we encourage our young to have sex if we actually talk about the fact that them having sex might result in them contracting a fatal disease for which there is no cure. And whats worse is that if these people are so passionate about this subject then one would imagine they have some knowledge of it.. and if they do, how the hell can they oppose these schemes that are aimed at prevention?! I can understand civilians (I'm distinguishing citizens not involved with this crisis from those that are) who have misgivings; thats what the awareness campaigns are there for, but people who speak with authority when they have none is so damaging.
I really believe there needs to be an overhaul of the education system in India. Not only at the elementary and high school level but we need some form of adult education that works. Knowing the way the average minds ticks in India, perhaps we could have Amitabh Bacchan play an AIDS victim... or the father of one. I bet that would do some good. They say know your audience. I'm really trying. There's no point in preaching to the converted, and I believe visual communication is one of the most effective ways. If you see something that you identify as non threatning, then perhaps you will come to accept it. Like putting a human face to people with AIDS-- but it needs to be accessible. If you tell someone they are going to watch an educational documentary about something they have condemned; chances are they will not want to. So info-tainment might be the best option for awareness in India. All these thoughts are stemming out of the incredible amount of reading I've been doing on development communication but I think this is a valid point.