Wednesday, December 14, 2005

how do you talk to a wall?

"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.



rohinic said...

hear hear!! they did have shilpa shetty play an aids victim. she was like jesus or something. it was so educate-the-masses type.
anyway- the whole of india is built on hypocrisy. i know america is pretty much as bad in a different way, but institutions themselves cant deign to address an issue like aids... coz theyre too embarressed to talk about it! its ridiculous. embarressment totally outweighs a medical crisis. thats hypocrisy.

CEO of the World said...

The whole condom issue is tricky when religious beliefs play a factor. I was born and raised Catholic (although I hardly consider myself religious now), and it actually irritated me that people criticized the pope for speaking out against condom use. Religion is based on certain ideals, and when one of those is that condom use shouldn't be necessary because sex is soley for the purpose of reproduction, then why is it wrong for him to tell Catholic people not to use condoms (because they shouldn't be having sex in the first place)? Okay, this sounds like I'm arguing against your point, which I definitely am not because I agree with you. To say that condom machines shouldn't be allowed because it advocates premarital sex is just ridiculous. Especially in a country where AIDS is a major issue. People are gonna screw whomever, whenever no matter how many condom machinese are out there, and these people who are so far up their ass with their stupid ideals should take into account that the world is changing and people have sex.

Well, now that I have ranted nonsenically to you. Thanks for the random comment. Nice blog. Keep up the good work!

honest_fella said...

NGOs and the govt or health organizations should recruit people in the village to distribute condoms and information to as many doors as possible. once its in the house, its in the house. people respond to money, it creates jobs and well even the potential rioters will be tempted to make money of it. let the process go on for a few months, try not to be deterred by the initial burning condoms (natural reaction for a while, but quite a waste of condoms - hey,anyone heard of the condom industry in africa where they make different objects with the unused condoms,its a total waste but also off the point), and show the people a nice alternating bombardment of pathetic looking terminally ill people and healthy,happy,alive people.....
and we throw in a few celebrities and maybe a barrage of statistics...
there u have it... jobs, a nice simple choice between life and death and the glamour of bollywood - who'd vote against that?

maybe even an ocassional party to see how many more died from aids, and enjoy wonderfully cooked warm food and star company at the same u can have the tears whilst crying for loved ones, and you can have the laughs and the full tummy too...masala mix baby!

honest_fella said...

and as for the question of funding - a hollywood project that wants to make a cheap movie and do good? or a big company making a movie for the fun of it, getting good publicity for help in aids work, and a potentially huge global(Indian) market for the movie....

Cyberswami said...

part of the indian problem is that we're going through a bit of a cultural paradigm shift.

having acquired a set of values, as such, from the colonial legacy and victorian conservatism and prudishness to some extent, it is difficult to find the freedom to openly discuss topics like sex and AIDS on tv.

we weren't like that, necessarily, before the british, and probably before the mughals. old hindu culture was pretty open, at least according to the evidence.

the paradigm shift is now towards the american set of values that are far more explicit and open. this is largely through television and american shows and things like that. the youth of today identify far more with the americans than the british.

the older generations don't. there is therefore this conflict between what 'can' and what 'cannot' be discussed in a public medium such as television.

it is changing, though.