Saturday, March 3, 2018

What's wrong with Papon's kiss and the people who came in support of him?

Most Indian readers of my blog would be aware of the kiss controversy that erupted last week when Papon, a 42-year old Bollywood singer, kissed the lips of an 12-year old girl. The girl was a contestant on a music show where Papon is a judge. The kissing incident happened off-stage, I believe in Papon's vanity van where the contestants and some crew members of the show were celebrating the festival of Holi.

I had read about this incident in news but hadn't given much importance to it, because I am not a big fan of celebrity gossip news. In fact, one of my pet peeve is that Google Now feeds me with a disproportionate amount of celebrity news that I don't care much about. Like most other celebrity news that come my way, I had simply read the headlines but hadn't bothered to find details about the incident. However, today I stumbled on the original video of the incident, and watching it made me very angry.

First things first, I strongly condemn Papon's behavior, but even before I discuss the reasons behind it, I must acknowledge that both the girl and her parents have come in support of Papon on this issue. You can watch their response to the incident in the last video shared in this blog post.

Why Papon's behavior needs to be condemned?

1) A potential case of workplace sexual harassment.  There is a big movement going on around the world (including India) over the last several months called the #MeToo movement, where thousands of people have voluntarily shared their experience of how they were sexually harassed in the workplace. I see the kissing incident also as a potential case of workplace sexual harassment, because it happened in the context of the workplace and involved touching someone in a way that goes beyond the acceptable norms within a society.

People have been arguing that the intentions of Papon were good and that he is a good man, which may all be true, but those are no excuses for he kissing somebody else's kid. Papon has explained his behavior by claiming that he is an "emotionally expressive person" and that 's how he expresses his emotions with everybody. My point is that your intentions may all be good, but you could still be accused of sexual harassment, because it can easily be perceived as sexual harassment, especially when you pull a kid's face towards yourself and plant a kiss on her lips. No excuse of you being an "emotionally expressive person" is going to prevent you from being sued for sexual harassment.

2) Kids can't give consent. To be fair to Papon, you could argue that this was a first-time incident (at least, as far as we know). He did not continue to "express his emotions physically" after people expressed their displeasure about it. Some people don't consider a behavior harassment if the victim didn't object to the perpetrator's behavior. In other words, a behavior is seen as harassment only if the perpetrator persists despite the victim's objection. However, the problem with this argument is that kids are unable to give consent and express their displeasure assertively. That is the very reason we have laws against statutory rape and child marriage. In fact, even adults find it difficult to be assertive, especially when they are in low power situations of the workplace. That is the reason I condemn Papon's behavior irrespective of who have come in support of him.

3) Kids are a vulnerable. They need our protection. We need to teach them about "good" and "bad" touch instead of justifying a potential perpetrator's behavior. What angered me most about the incident was not so much the action of Papon (although it did, and I have already explained that). It was also not the silence of the otherwise vocal human rights conscious Bollywood celebrities. What upset me the most about the incident was the mindless way some people came in support of Papon's actions. Below are some examples.

In the first video that I shared on this post, you see some Bollywood heroine (I don't know her name; let me know if you do) trivializing the incident completely by disparaging the people who filed a legal case against Papon. Specifically, she said, "Those who have filed a legal case against Papon are the kind of good-for-nothing people who have nothing better to do." Unfortunately, this is a common strategy employed by some people. Since they can't argue against your arguments, they will simply put you down.

In another article I found, a Bollywood lyricist coming in support of Papon by calling the incident an "unfortunate camera angle and a goofed-up peck-in the cheek gesture." Interestingly, Papon has also given the same "unfortunate camera angle" excuse. Again, there may be some truth in the "unfortunate camera angle" argument, but still what right does an outsider have to even kiss the cheek of a 12 year old girl?

We see in the below video, actress Dia Mirza indirectly supporting Papon by first claiming that she can't comment on the incident because she doesn't know much about it, but then going on to exalt Papon to the heights of a saint.

The most disgusting video: Unfortunately, the worst case of putting a potential perpetrator on the pedestal of God was done not by some outsider but by the girl's parents and the parents of some other contestants. You can see that in below video. They literally say several times, "Papon Sir is like God! How can people even think about this God in such lowly terms?" They also put words in the mouth of the girl by prompting her to speak highly of "Papon Sir" when she is speaking in the video..

The reason I found this video the most disgusting is because parents are supposed to protect their children. They are not supposed to legitimize an adult's inappropriate behavior towards their child. Again, to be fair towards these parents, may be they are very simple-minded people who can't help but see the best in everyone. However, I can never condone such behavior if anyone acted in a similar way towards my nieces or nephews, for example.

Many of my friends know how fond I am of my little nieces and nephews. But despite being their beloved uncle, I have never kissed them on their lips, not even when they were toddlers. There are certain boundaries that should always be respected. To express your love for somebody you don't have to pull them and kiss them.

Thankfully, kids in India are now being taught about the differences between a good touch and bad touch. I came to know about it just two weeks ago when my five-year old nephew in his childlike excitement shared with me on phone all the new things that he had learnt in school that day. One of those things was about the difference between good touch and bad touch. Now, that gives me hope for the future generation of the world... We should certainly not destroy children's innocence, but in the name of protecting innocence we should also not endanger children's lives by making them believe that it is alright for anyone to touch them inappropriately.

No comments:

Post a Comment