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  • The Shaming of Scarlett Keeling

    THAT VIOLENCE against women rarely grabs any attention except for in the presence of gruesomeness, sensationalism, drama and tragedy is already known. But more disturbing by far than the fact that the murder of a teenage tourist in Goa last month has been making headlines precisely due to its cocktail of all the above elements is the level of moral sanctimony that accompanies the media coverage, the ensuing debates, and even what are ostensibly the responses of those who knew Scarlett Keeling and her family.

    On February 18, the body of 15-year old Scarlett Keeling, a British national, was found on a Goan beach. Police initially chalked up her death to drowning after consuming too much alcohol, despite evidence of severe bruising and rape. But investigations and post-mortem investigations revealed contradictory facts, as did eyewitness accounts by people who had seen the girl during her final hours. Scarlett had been in India with her mother Fiona MacKeown, MacKeown’s boyfriend, and her siblings. They were frequent visitors, and on this instance were on a six-month-long trip.

    Allegations were quickly leveled against MacKeown for her negligence of Scarlett. The moral higher ground was quickly swamped by those chastising her for her irresponsible behaviour. One whiff of scandal led to another, and details about MacKeown’s private life were dug up. Scarlett’s diary entries were exposed in the media. The bottomline message was that somehow, by choosing to lead lifestyles that included partying, sex and substances, they had asked for the tragedy that befell them. Terms like “alleged murder” were popular, as though it could have been anything else, until today’s gruesome revelation: Scarlett was murdered by having her head held underwater for between five and ten minutes. She asphyxiated to death.

    It is alarming to watch the cruelty of the media – from possibly every newspaper in the country to even NDTV’s usually fairly progressive We The People to the blogosphere – and what can be gauged of common opinion by it. Despite the horrifying brutality inflicted on a person who by Indian standards was still a child, and the overwhelming confusion and despair her loved ones are no doubt experiencing, the attacks made against the victim and the family censure them with only superficial demonstrations of sympathy. Political officials in Goa are calling for the revoking of MacKeown’s visa and a ban on her entering the country again, blaming her for maligning the image of the state. She has since gone into hiding, fearing for her life from both the drug mafia and state officials whom she has linked to them.

    Scarlett’s boyfriend, an Indian citizen named Julio Lobo, has been taken for medical tests to see if he is “sexually active”. A DNA test of substances found on or in the victim’s body would not be unreasonable, but pray tell, what does his being or not being sexually active reveal about the horrific tragedy? Is it necessary, given that in her diary, Scarlett had written not only that she had sex with him, but that she felt he used her for it? Is there a test that proves sexual activity in males? Or is this like one of those repressed, backward ideas about broken hymens and being able to pee in a straight line? That this person’s private life is being pried into in a manner that is unlikely to shed any light on the senselessness of the incident is nothing more than one of the many ways in which the blame is being pinned on “the wanton Western way”. The boyfriend, we are to assume, has sinned by his affinity to this lifestyle of debauchery, which – we are also to assume – is imported to India by the likes of the Keeling family. But even that doesn’t quite crack it: Lobo is being tested not because of his character – but because of what the conclusiveness of science is meant to tell us about hers.

    Lobo, in turn, has retaliated by attacking MacKeown because she had been aware of Scarlett’s lifestyle (but she says Scarlett was neither a binge drinker not drug abuser, to her knowledge). This, too, is reprehensible. At 25 years old, a decade older than Scarlett, his relationship with her could amount to statutory rape. Clearly, prior to the murder, MacKeown’s liberal parenting style benefited him. His attempt to deflect attention from his actual law-breaking by ganging up against the bereaved mother with the rest of the patriarchy squad is sickening.

    In other words, the condemning of the murdered girl, her family, her friends, their lifestyles and their choices is a typical misogynist response – the wicked woman gets her dues. And this time, there are not one but two “wicked women”: Fiona MacKeown, mother of not just the victim, but of several more children of “varying paternity”, and Scarlett herself. That the women in question happen to be from the West (that corrupter of our chaste and virtuous ways of life!) is icing on the cake.

    Rape, murder, the works – apparently, under the right (or wrong) circumstances, they can all be justified.

    Make no mistake. What we see in the media today is not an enquiry into a crime. It is slut-shaming, plain and simple. The nation is not in shock because a 15 year old has been so brutally treated. Those are not the sounds of protest and outrage; they are the sounds of many hands rubbing in glee, so thrilled to be vindicated of their position that women who break the rules deserve what’s coming to them, and what’s coming to them is exactly what happened to Scarlett Keeling.

    But what happened to Scarlett Keeling has nothing to do with if she had sex, if she did drugs, if she drank. What happened to Scarlett Keeling has nothing to do with why her mother so frequently chose to travel to India or lived a bohemian, unconventional lifestyle. What happened to Scarlett Keeling has only one reason: some places in the world are not safe for women, not because of culture or tradition, but because of an absence of respect for them as individuals. India is one of them. India killed Scarlett Keeling – and every day, kills many less sensationalized individuals. That Fiona MacKeown has seen this is not delusion on her part.

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    40 Responses

    1. The ‘what were you wearing?’ mindset has loomed into gigantic proportions here that you mention. It is pathetic to observe the hypocrisy of the Indian officials and the ‘patriarchs’ of the society.

    2. Agree 100%. It’s absolutely revolting, the way her murder is being treated.

    3. Sharanya, many times in my life I have felt ashamed to call myself an Indian. The reason finds an echo in the lines you have penned……’some places in the world are not safe for women, not because of culture or tradition, but because of an absence of respect for them as individuals. India is one of them’.

    4. Unfortunately, it’s not just India. I can’t think of any place in the world where women are respected enough that they are not raped.

    5. Mekhala — Yes. This is exactly the “what were you wearing” way of responding, augmented by salaciousness, perversity and moral policing.

      Sunil — I find it especially terrible how the blame is being pinned on the mother. Let’s put in perspective the kind of mothering we commonly see and hear of in India: depriving girls of education, pressuring them into or out of marriage, complacently taking the side of male relatives in times of trouble. Maybe MacKeown wasn’t a fantastic mother, but really, who’s to judge?

      Trees — That’s why we have this blog, I suppose.

      Jodie — I agree. Neither can I. But there are some places where the situation is worse than others, in quantifiable ways (though not always related to rape or murder). India is one of them.

    6. Mekhala — Sorry, what I meant to say was: an even more perverse brand of it.

    7. yet again they are not solving the problem but attacking everything else- the mom, her relationship, the visas etc….and the media- nver mind..they are just in search of a story- all sordid details that will have no bearing to the crime

    8. I am glad to see an article from the feminist perspective.This tragic story has many aspects apart from the obvious.

      If you have no objection here is my link
      http://justlearningman.wordpress.com

    9. […] the killing was brutal, the reactions that followed haven’t been kind either- Sharanya condemns those who are condemning the victim: In other words, the condemning of the murdered girl, […]

    10. Really? And what are we to make of Amrit Dhillon’s claim in Outlook that the Indian press has been timid in its treatment of Fiona McKeown? See

      http://203.200.89.230/full.asp?fodname=20080324&fname=Col+Amrit+%28F%29&sid=1

      I don’t know how long Outlook will have the page available, so it might be non-operational at some stage.

      Some responses. First, any suspect in a murder case has to put up with a loss of privacy. This applies to India as elsewhere.

      Second, stereotyping (as in “wanton western ways”) is not particularly an Indian trait. It would be useful, though, if you could give links to some examples of such stereotyping in the Indian press instead of complaining in the abstract. My impression is that though stereotyping is prevalent in the middle classes – the class to which all participating in this blog belong – the press, in general, tends to be quite careful.

      Third, while traditional Indian society in general accords women an inferior role and does not treat them equally, neither does it condone rape. Not even the infamous Manu Dharamashastra. In that sense, “India” did not fail Scarlett Keeling – what happened in Goa was a crime which has equals in all societies. If what happened to Ms. Keeling had happened in Britain, Austraila or the USA, would you have said that those countries “failed” her?

      If you want to complain about India’s treatment of women, you have plenty of ammunition – indeed, no shortage – to make your case. But doing so in this manner only hurts your case – but then, what do I know? I’m one of those who oppresses not only women but also people from “lower” castes 🙂

    11. Suresh — “the class to which all participating in this blog belong”? Try that on for size, if you’re going to talk about stereotyping. But it’s not stereotyping that’s the problem at all, but the concepts of morality and consequence. And the article you linked to is a good example of exactly the kind of attitude I was talking about in my post. As for his remarks on bad parenting, please see my response to Sunil above — who’s Dhillon to judge? India failed Scarlett Keeling because the incident happening in the first place, frankly, does not surprise me. Whereas a woman being punished so brutally because she made her own sexual choices in Britain, Australia or the USA, while being a crime shocking in itself, would not be indicative of common consensus in quite the same way.

    12. I fully agree with your point about the “what was she wearing” attitude, which I have written about on my own blog in the past, in other contexts.

      In this context, my understanding is that the Goan politicians are the ones taking the disgusting line of argument, and most Indian newspapers actually called them on it and denounced the mother-blaming. I don’t recall reading any articles at least in newspapers blaming her. Yes, the NDTV show had some idiots pushing that line of thinking and I have seen “reader’s opinion” type pages on TOI and other site where normal readers have peddled it too. But no articles, apart from Dhillon, come to mind.

      Maybe I am wrong and have missed some. Could you please link to them?

    13. Caste is not the same as class, which is about wealth. My impression is that you need a certain amount of wealth and education to participate in blogs like this which more or less puts you in the “middle to upper classes” at least so far as India is concerned. I was only trying to indicate that all those from India who participate here have somewhat of a common background in our educational status and wealth levels. If I am mistaken, excuse me.

      The “problem” if at all one can give that phrasing to a brutal crime lay firstly in the poor judgment of Scarlett’s mother. It doesn’t mean that she is guilty of any crime; just that she showed poor judgment. It was then compounded after the crime by the incompetence of the Goan police. I am not sure where concepts of morality and consequence – whatever that means – comes into it. And it is a “consensus” in India that rape and murder is okay because a woman made her own sexual choices? Really? Did you do a survey to reach this conclusion?

      FYI, Amrit Dhillon is a *woman*. Finally, I really have no idea what you mean by

      India failed her [Scarlett Keeling] because the incident happening in the first place does not surprise me.

      What should be done then? Provide armed escorts to all visitors to India? You follow that up with

      .Whereas a woman being punished so brutally because she made her own sexual choices in Britain, Australia or the USA, while being a crime shocking in itself, would not be indicative of common consensus in quite the same way.

      It is bizarre that you choose to make a distinction between a rape and murder happening in India as against the same crime happening in Britain, USA or Australia. I give up against such brilliance. You have the last word.

    14. Sharanya
      Assume it’s OK to address you by your first name!

      I have no desire to get involved in a war of words and trust I offend no-one in particular.

    15. @Suresh. The journalist A. Dhillon does have valid questions but mingled with generalizations that every human is guilty of.

      It is practically impossible for an Indian family to perceive the lifestyle of young people in UK.

      His assessment is accurate when he describes”laxity”. We would describe it as personal independence. I would suggest to you that kids in youth clubs have access to free condoms as young as thirteen, because we combat our own malaise (too long winded to give an explanation)

      “The results of this laxity in Britain can be seen everywhere. Aggressive, unruly, malignant yobs with no fear of parents, teachers or any adult. Bad parenting has risen to such levels that a British school union leader complained recently that schools now had to teach children everything-from basic social skills such as how to hold a knife and fork, to moral values. Schools were replacing parents and the Church.”

      Perhaps the Indian journalists are wary rather than timid. Our own Daily Mail (linked in my article) never pulled any punches, but then it is a right wing paper.

      I too have some tough questions in my title, http://justlearningman.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/pragmatic-parent-pompous-pratt-or-prophetic-purifier/

      However I also understand that everyone needs to walk a mile in Fiona McKeown’s shoes to appreciate the truly alternative lifestyle she has chosen, even for a Brit.

      This is a crime against a woman, let’s forget about the age for a moment that the person/persons concerned may have and most likely will continue to be assailants.

      The society that created these monsters need to be evaluated, for the safety of all women.

    16. The magnitude of the ignorance displayed on this post not only is insulting to the event but also to the claim of feminism. I’m not defending the ineptitude of the Goa police or approving the course of events. I’m wondering on the irrelevance of some of the points you have made or rather, I believe you have made.

      Alleging injustice can be rational if and only if all the facts are placed in the basket.Lifestyle , sex , local politics, Goan tourism, media hype or unfairness, western influence and your equally disappointing counter-paragraphs are all rationalizations of banal attitudes prevalent in the culture.

      Here are some of my musings?

      Scarlet is 15 , a minor by Indian law; she is not a tourist in the sense of the word, she is a resident Briton in India ( the family earns their living in goan markets). Her mother who was responsible for her well-being left her in the company ( note: not under the care) of someone she knew. And a gruesome crime happened. As for me it is not a question of morality at all but simply of judgement. So far all the blame has been heaped on Goa police ( for their stupidity not efficiency). No police anywhere in the world is responsible for anyone’s safety. Only for law and order. What is your take on how much her mother took things for granted – which was ante and not how much the police took things for granted which was post?

      Aside the underpinnings of all the parties , the grieved mother, the shameless police force, the hopeless political background, the sham of the media, how you without any bearing on any of these factors claim that the nation of India has failed the victim? What is the rational basis of your allegation apart from your own grievance? To em it is no better than someone saying scarlett was given to debauchery.

      And how is all of this related to feminism and women safety, which is an oxymoron if you just limit yourself for this case. Madeleine McCann case ( minor left on own again in Portugal ) and the teacher who was thrown out of Kenya would also be feminist issues then? right? ? Portuguese police and Kenyan government have all failed these part. And why hasn’t India failed that woman who was killed by her hubby in blore but only scarlett? I wonder how someone getting killed in her own home is not feminism while someone getting killed outside is? Even if she is one drugs and booze( which btw, is considered in law all over the world, that whether the victim was under the influence?)

      The answer is it is all associated with culture and motives as much as if not more than how scarlet’s mom failed to safeguard her own daughter. As much as if a gang of thugs attacked you in Devon. It doesn’t mean Britain has failed you.

      Scarlett case is a criem and that alone; response is local and cultural; India, feminism has nothing to do with it. Its for this reason people would come to Goa regardless. Some are sane.

      Thanks.

    17. The public may have subjective opinions on Fiona Mackeown but why should the media ‘treat’ her in any way other than that as the kin of a murder victim?
      I have read the Outlook article where she has been described as ‘Hideous Kinky avatar mother later doing the martyr act’ (!) and seen NDTV’s We The People episode where her parenting style was brought up time and again.
      A timid media? Highly prejudiced and extremely unprofessional is how I would put it.

    18. Whereas a woman being punished so brutally because she made her own sexual choices in Britain, Australia or the USA, while being a crime shocking in itself, would not be indicative of common consensus in quite the same way.

      Perhaps not quite the same way, but our media and our courts certainly do a lot of slut-shaming and rape apologizing. The girl who went missing in Aruba a couple years ago – the media centered on the fact that she’d been drinking and flirting and that she left a party with a couple of men – strongly alluding to the notion that she’d brought her demise on herself. And there were and are repeated warnings all over the news for women to watch their drinking, to mind who they’re alone with – to not Get Themselves Raped. There’s nothing examining or admonishing the all-too-common mindset of the men and boys who feel entitled to rape.
      The case of the girl who was gang raped at a party in California – much more blame was heaped on the girl for having drunk herself unconscious than on the baseball players who piled on her. Indeed, the baseball players were cast as the True Victims.
      More recently, there was a U.S. case of a woman who was sexually assaulted by a male coworker she’d accepted a ride home with. The case was dismissed because the woman was “stupid” enough to have accepted the ride.
      These examples are just off the top of my head. The slut-shaming and woman-blaming may be more thinly veiled in other parts of the world, but the west is in no way immune to it.

    19. Gaurav — It’s been a few days, and the tide has turned since, but here’s what I could dig up quickly:
      http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20080331&fname=Goa+%28F%29&sid=1&pn=1,
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=542340&in_page_id=1770,
      http://www.ndtv.com/debate/showdebate.asp?show=1&story_id=371&template=&category=Sports,
      http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080317/jsp/frontpage/story_9028784.jsp,
      http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1156364,
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Scarletts_mother_admits_to_knifing_sex_pest/articleshow/2868923.cms,
      http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Mar152008/scroll2008031557566.asp?section=frontpagenews,
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Scarletts_mother_was_jailed_for_slitting_a_mans_throat/articleshow/2866997.cms

      Suresh — The crime does not surprise me because of the frequency of crimes against women in India, as well as the broad, much more frequently felt, misogynistic attitudes behind these crimes (my fundamental argument). This isn’t about tourists or attitudes toward tourists, as you seem to suggest by saying “What should be done then? Provide armed escorts to all visitors to India?”. Why a distinction between a rape and murder here and a rape and murder elsewhere? Because you can’t — or shouldn’t — strip people down to their victim statuses alone. Circumstances count. Why was Scarlett raped and murdered? I think it’s because of a combination of the perception that if a woman sleeps with one person, she’s a commodity for all, as well as the belief that women who make sexual choices outside of marriage need to be punished for “sinning”. You seem to think it was primarily because her mother left her in Goa (“The “problem” … lay firstly in the poor judgment of Scarlett’s mother”). In other words, you think her mother asked for it. Nobody, no matter how they conduct their personal lives, asks for rape or murder, or for their child to be raped and murdered. Why does this even have to be explained to a reader of a feminist blog?

      How does Dhillon’s gender (about which I was mistaken because it was my understanding that Amrit is a male name) make a difference here? Puspa Iyengar (of the Outlook article Trees mentioned) is most likely to be a woman too.

      I don’t know who you really are outside of an IP and some possibly fake identifiers, but you choose to present yourself as male and Indian (unless I am wrong again about the name). But as a woman in India, let me tell you — one doesn’t have to do any survey to know what social consensus is. We live it every day, the women we know live it every day.

      And do let me know what survey/research you conducted to discover the backgrounds of this blog’s participants. It’s either faulty generalization, or cyberstalking.

      Winslie — Thank you. I don’t know if you’ve offended anyone else here, but you haven’t offended me.

      Sunil 2 — You submitted the same comment more than once over a couple of days, so you must feel quite strongly about your statements. Unfortunately, one of your statements was: “And why hasn’t India failed that woman who was killed by her hubby in blore but only scarlett? I wonder how someone getting killed in her own home is not feminism while someone getting killed outside is?” Hmm. Your inability to understand a sentence like “India killed Scarlett Keeling – and every day, kills many less sensationalized individuals.” makes me wonder if the rest of your comment even warrants a reply.

      Trees — I fully agree. The Outlook article was very obnoxious. It isn’t that people aren’t entitled to their opinions, even if we as feminists would like to influence their mentalities. It’s that the harshness of judgement here completely leaves aside the fact that Fiona MacKeown is a grieving mother.

      Snobographer — I see your point. Violence and prejudice toward women are global problems, and I do not mean to suggest that India is unique in this. However, in shaping a relevant, contemporary Indian feminism, as we hope to, we need to cast a keener eye toward what happens here and how it relates to prevalent attitudes.

      More generally, I honestly don’t think that Fiona’s decision to leave Scarlett alone in Goa is particularly unusual. I lived in Penang, another one of those beach holiday places (although being part of an Islamic country meant it was less liberal) for five years as a kid, during which my entire peer group was almost exclusively white/Western (take your pick — don’t want to quibble over the semantics of this one). Many of my schoolmates were given large monetary allowances and free rein of their time between school hours and (a late or nonexistent) curfew, stayed at home alone for stretches of days or weeks, and more — as early as 9 years old. You were no longer a child at 15. I don’t think Fiona MacKeown’s parenting style was anything unheard of.

    20. Gaurav — It’s been a few days, and the tide has turned since, but here’s what I could dig up quickly:
      http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20080331&fname=Goa+%28F%29&sid=1&pn=1
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=542340&in_page_id=1770
      http://www.ndtv.com/debate/showdebate.asp?show=1&story_id=371&template=&category=Sports
      http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080317/jsp/frontpage/story_9028784.jsp
      http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1156364
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Scarletts_mother_admits_to_knifing_sex_pest/articleshow/2868923.cms
      http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Mar152008/scroll2008031557566.asp?section=frontpagenews
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Scarletts_mother_was_jailed_for_slitting_a_mans_throat/articleshow/2866997.cms

      Sunil 2 — You submitted the same comment more than once over a couple of days, so you must feel quite strongly about your statements. Unfortunately, one of your statements was: “And why hasn’t India failed that woman who was killed by her hubby in blore but only scarlett? I wonder how someone getting killed in her own home is not feminism while someone getting killed outside is?” Hmm. Your inability to understand a sentence like “India killed Scarlett Keeling – and every day, kills many less sensationalized individuals.” makes me wonder if the rest of your comment even warrants a reply.

      Suresh — The crime does not surprise me because of the frequency of crimes against women in India, as well as the broad, much more frequently felt, misogynistic attitudes behind these crimes (my fundamental argument). This isn’t about tourists, as you seem to suggest by saying “What should be done then? Provide armed escorts to all visitors to India?”. Why a distinction between a rape and murder here and a rape and murder elsewhere? Because you can’t — or shouldn’t — strip people down to their victim statuses alone. Circumstances count. Why was Scarlett raped and murdered? I think it’s because of a combination of the perception that if a woman sleeps with one person, she’s a commodity for all, as well as the belief that women who make sexual choices outside of marriage need to be punished for “sinning”. You seem to think it was primarily because her mother left her in Goa (“The “problem” … lay firstly in the poor judgment of Scarlett’s mother”). In other words, you think her mother asked for it. Nobody, no matter how they conduct their personal lives, asks for rape or murder, or for their child to be raped and murdered. Why does this even have to be explained to a reader of a feminist blog?

      How does Dhillon’s gender (about which I was mistaken because it was my understanding that Amrit is a male name) make a difference here? Puspa Iyengar (of the Outlook article Trees mentioned) is most likely to be a woman too.

      I don’t know who you really are outside of an IP and some possibly fake identifiers, but you choose to present yourself as male and Indian (unless I am wrong again about the name). But as a woman in India, let me tell you — one doesn’t have to do any survey to know what social consensus is. We live it every day, the women we know live it every day.

      And do let me know what survey/research you conducted to discover the backgrounds of this blog’s participants. It’s either faulty generalization, or cyberstalking.

      Winslie — Thank you. I don’t know if you’ve offended anyone else here, but you haven’t offended me.

      Trees — I fully agree. The Outlook article was very obnoxious. It isn’t that people aren’t entitled to their opinions, even if we as feminists would like to influence their mentalities. It’s that the harshness of judgement here completely leaves aside the fact that Fiona MacKeown is a grieving mother.

      Snobographer — I see your point. Violence and prejudice toward women are global problems, and I do not mean to suggest that India is unique in this. However, in shaping a relevant, contemporary Indian feminism, as we hope to, we need to cast a keener eye toward what happens here and how it relates to prevalent attitudes.

      More generally, I honestly don’t think that Fiona’s decision to leave Scarlett alone in Goa is particularly unusual. I lived in Penang, another one of those beach holiday places (although being part of an Islamic country meant it was less liberal) for five years as a kid, during which my entire peer group was almost exclusively white/Western (take your pick — don’t want to quibble over the semantics of this one). Many of my schoolmates were given large monetary allowances and free rein of their time between school hours and (a late or nonexistent) curfew, stayed at home alone for stretches of days or weeks, and more — as early as 9 years old. You were no longer a child at 15.

    21. Gaurav — I repeatedly tried to post some links in my response, but don’t seem able to. I guess Akismet must have labelled it spam. Sorry about that.

    22. For the astounding ignorance, let me tell you people do that – post the comment twice after couple of days – to confirm if isn’t censored.

      Here is what I think, you cant say anything because you don’t have anything reasonable to say.

      This mouthpiece is an amazing irony because for all freedom it wishes to invoke it has to say that behind the veils of moderation. Goodness.
      And the claim that India failed her like any nation that failed a crime is like saying sea water is salty. teh question was intended to find WHY are you stating it ? Jesus.
      Bye.

    23. The problem with this opinion of our Ms. Sharanya Manivannan is that it is another of those “all lifestyles, however licentious, reprobate, degrading they may be…are OK and are above societal censure…but the police have to be perfect all the time.”

      Nonsense.

      Let me tell you what is remarkable about this whole case.

      What is not astonishing is that the police and politicians in India are corrupt and inept. This is reality in India not just in the case of Scarlett but in thousands of civil and criminal cases across the country. Delayed, distorted justice is the norm in India…just like suppression of free speech in China. Of course, it must be addressed and corrected and it is hoped that the increasing transparency across the country will ultimately solve this also.

      What is not astonishing is that there are rogues, ruffians and rowdies who are always on the prowl, lurking around every corner ready to rape and plunder. Such scum is present across time and space…it existed 100 years ago and it will exisit 100 years hence…it exists in Manhattan, in Devon, in Goa, in Tokyo and in Lahore. For a stoned, licentious, sluttish, stupid but voluptuous teenager to roam around wantonly at 5 am among strange men on a foreign beach…and then to not expect someone to take advantage of her and to expect her to not get into some dangerous situation…is akin to leaving a brand spanking BMW Convertible with keys in ignition at midnight in Harlem in New York or Cabrini Green in Chicago…and expect it not to be stolen or stripped for parts and then getting all worked up that the police is not doing its job of protecting property if it does.

      What is astonishing…truly mind-boggling…is the complete and total dereliction of duty by the mother. The very person who is, by any custom or practise, supposed to care for her young. Not only is she herself a clueless, decadent woman…roaming around the country side with some fly-by-night stud (who, by the way, has abandoned McKeoan and her children from five other studs since the scandal broke). She left her 15 year old child, alone and penniless, wiht some strange fellow who they hardly know, knowing full well she is sexually active, hooked on drugs, has no money, has nothing to sell but her sex. It is amusing for her to say she thought this Lobo is like an “uncle”. Some uncle this. Did she really think that a 25 year old stud would not make a move on a 15-year old girl, who is drug-addicted and sex-addicted?

      But for our Ms. Sharanya Manivannan, this is an acceptable lifestyle and nobody should pass moral judgment. It is her mother, through personal example, who allowed for her daughter to be a druggie and a sex addict. It is her mother, indisciplined reprobate herself, who failed to discipline her daughter. It is her mother who put Scarlett in harm’s way. It is her mother who is responsible for her death. If she cared enough, put her daughter above her own vagabond lifestyle, she would have stayed in Devon and ensured Scarlett was in school, studying and struggling to achieve…instead of participating in orgies under full moon on some strange foreign beach.

    24. Rape case in Italy. This is the crazy world we live in.
      A woman wearing Jeans cannot be raped, it must be by consent.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/277263.stm

    25. Sunil 2 — Firstly, although I’m not the moderator, I do know that this kind of blog gets alot of spam. Comment moderation filters it. Secondly, for someone who obviously saves your comments so as to submit them repeatedly in case of rejection, I wonder if you re-read them before you do so. I can’t understand at all what the salty sea water connection is at all. And, umm, do read my first comment. I didn’t bother to say more than that because if you won’t bother reading something before responding to it, there is no point in argument.

      Kalpana — What a perfect example of the kind of attitude and hatefulness that got this girl murdered. “Voluptuous”? Where did THAT come from? Next thing we know, you’ll be blaming her mother for giving her pretty genes. Because pretty women deserve to be raped, right? Especially if they’re “sluttish” or “stupid” to top it off. I’m sure you spent many, many hours with the family to know so much about them, conducting IQ tests and keeping tallies of sexual partners, etc to be able to judge them so. Your complete absence of compassion, even as you speak about staying in school and better parenting, is shocking.

      See, I don’t pretend to know these people. I don’t know if they are people I may like in person. What I do know is that people are entitled to their lifestyle choices. You and I may not agree with those choices, may not make the same choices, but in the same way that you would not want to be denied of your right to live whatever sort of lifestyle you live, as long as they do not hurt anyone else, it’s nobody’s business but theirs. Morality is always relative. Could anything Scarlett or Fiona did have offended my sense of morality? Maybe. But I wouldn’t be gleeful, as you seem to be, that one of them was raped and murdered and the other has to live with it.

      Winslie — That jeans=rape thing came up again, more recently, but in a context I can’t remember. Thanks for the link.

    26. why can’t indian women get the message? no matter what happens it’s your fault, if u get raped it’s ur fault, if ur guy cheats on u it’s ur fault, if the goddamn sky falls down tomorrow it’s ur fault.it’s just how we men roll.

    27. Posted by Theodore Dalrymple
      Multiculturalists claim all cultures are equally worthy – yet they show little understanding of foreign culures, argues Theodore Dalrymple.

      One of the paradoxical effects of multiculturalism as a doctrine and tenet of political correctness is how completely uninterested it renders the population in the effect its behaviour has on people of other lands when it goes abroad. And there is a good logical reason why this should be so.

      I have been reading recently about the case of Scarlett Keeling, the 15 year old girl recently raped and murdered in Goa. As reported in the newspapers, her mother saw fit to leave her there while she went off elsewhere in India; and the girl herself was last seen at 4.00 am on the day of her death in a drunken state as she left a beach bar. I do not know this for certain, but it seems to me unlikely that her presence there was what murderers themselves, with regard to their crimes, often call a “one off”.

      Nothing, of course, can possibly excuse the crime itself; and any mother who loses a child in such a way is worthy of sympathy. No error of judgement, however serious, deserves to be punished in this fashion. Nevertheless, what the mother said in response to a senior Goanese policeman’s remarks, to the effect that foreign women ought to be more careful in Goa, strikes me as the very acme of immaturity, unpleasantly leavened with arrogance.

      She said,

      If they are saying it’s dangerous for British people, then it’s the government’s responsibility to warn people. There should be signs up, but there aren’t. Instead, it’s advertised as a hippy paradise, so you don’t feel it’s dangerous when you walk around.
      Even allowing for the guilt that the mother must be feeling, this is a remarkable statement.

      What she appears to be implying is that British visitors are so important that foreign governments have the duty to protect them at all times of the day and night from the consequences of their own behaviour, however unattractive, degraded and irresponsible it might be; and that, in the absence of official warning notices, parents should assume that it is safe and proper to leave their adolescent daughters drinking into the early hours of the morning in unknown company over which they have absolutely no control. The argument seems to go, what is now almost the norm in Britain in the line of crude, vulgar and slatternly disinhibition ought to be accepted everywhere else as the norm as well.

      From the behaviour that I have observed of British tourists abroad, Mrs McKeown (the mother of Scarlett Keeling) is far from being alone in her belief. Untold thousands of young British holidaymakers believe that they have the right to behave any way they like in foreign parts, and expect the protection of the foreign authorities while they do so into the bargain.

      This belief has two intellectual presuppositions behind it. The first is the consumerist notion that the customer is always right, in fact can do no wrong, and that the possession of purchasing power confers upon him unlimited rights while imposing equally unlimited liabilities upon those who cater to his purchasing power. If a town, for example, relies economically upon tourism, then its inhabitants have simply to accept however the tourists choose to behave. He who takes a customer’s money becomes, in effect, the customer’s slave; and he must accordingly swallow his pride and his disgust.

      I do not think I have to spell out to civilised people what is wrong with this attitude. However much we may value a strong commerce, we do not believe in buying people, body, mind and soul; and was it not Montesquieu who said that wherever there is a commercial people, there is a polite people? I cannot help but see in this mass boorishness a harbinger of economic as well as of cultural disaster.

      The second intellectual presupposition behind this arrogant and one might even say militant coarseness is multiculturalism. There is an unfortunate and frequently unnoticed corollary of the multiculturalist dogma that all cultures are equal in worth and value, in all respects: namely, that our own pattern of behaviour, whatever it may be, is also above criticism. Therefore there is no reason for us even to try to see ourselves as others see us; the duty of others is to accept us as we are, just as we, supposedly, have accepted them as they are.

      And since we have become convinced that permissiveness is the highest stage of Man, and that the enjoyment of crudely sensuous pleasure is the highest and indeed only possible worthwhile goal in life, then it follows that no one has the right to criticise our behaviour when we go in search of that goal. And since the universality of rights does not depend on geography, it also follows that, if we have a right to behave with sluttish drunkenness in Britain on a Saturday night, we have a similar right to do so in Goa, or indeed anywhere else, on any night of the week.

      Now it so happens that people who behave in this disgusting fashion usually have a sixth sense as to where it will and where it will not be tolerated; that is to say, they are both bullies and cowards. This is another very unpleasant aspect of the character that multiculturalist ideas have helped to develop.

      I hesitate to put myself forward as a paragon, because as a youth I was very far from it; but when at the age of 16 I hitchhiked with a French friend round Britain, Ireland, Switzerland and France (I thought it unduly cautious of my parents that they allowed me to go no further) I was already aware of the need, not merely practical but ethical, to make myself unobjectionable to the people among whom I moved, which required that I observe them closely.

      When, for example, I stayed in a monastery in France, I realised, notwithstanding the callow youth that I was, and that I was in an environment with which I was completely unfamiliar, that this was not the moment to rehearse my village-atheist arguments against the existence of God, arguments that I believed to be absolutely irrefutably valid; and I was duly rewarded for my restraint, because, all unexpectedly, I conceived a profound admiration for the monks, and developed a sympathy for them (and nuns) that has never left me since. Indeed, I rather regret that I did not have the religious faith that would have enabled me to withdraw from the world as they had – but that, of course, is another matter.

      It was not any multiculturalist doctrine that enabled me to develop a sympathetic admiration for the monks. It was rather an awareness of the ethical requirement to behave differently in different surroundings that allowed me to do so, an awareness that British tourists who think that Goa (and other places) should simply put up with their coarseness have obviously never developed: for multiculturalism assures them to behave coarsely is as good as good as behaving in any other way, and that no one has the right to object to it.

    28. Nice to read a feminists POV on the issue.
      I dint disagree with a lot that you write but couldnt get myself to agree on a few fronts.

      Quote:
      ———————————————————————
      What happened to Scarlett Keeling has only one reason some places in the world are not safe for women, not because of culture or tradition, but because of an absence of respect for them as individuals.

      ——————————————————————-

      ONLY ONE REASON??? This is what I usually call the feminists bias.

      Yes. The way women are treated in quite a few parts of the world is sad. But this case has much more too it than what you point out.

      Yes, a lifestyle of sex, parting and drinking does not justify her being raped. If this was a case of an adult, mature female in Bangalore/ Delhi getting raped on her way home and then cops pointing out that she was a party regular and therefore she got raped, I would have agreed with you. But this different. Scarlett was:
      15 year old
      In a foriegn land
      A foriegn land that has a rather questionable repution for safety of women, drugs, rapes.

      I would dig in deeper to understand the case than dismiss it as just another attack on women.

    29. Kalpana — Surprised to see you’ve held back at one comment this time, considering the amount of vitriol you spewed on my blog.

      For anyone else who might be interested in my response, do see my blog.

      Blogger Bhaiyya — I think that we actually do fundamentally agree. But the thing is, if Indian women who brave societal mores by doing what they want to can do it (and they can, and should), why should a foreigner be extra cautious? She wasn’t, as someone pointed out, a typical tourist, but someone who lived in India for stretches of months at a time. Even forgiving some teenage naivete, surely she must have known how far she could push the envelope. It helps to remember that while everyone is getting up in arms about morality and the like, Indian teenagers aren’t really that different in terms of behaviour. Our society is just more hypocritical, and we are better at keeping things hidden.

    30. Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that these “lifestyle” arguments are valid. The victim asked for it, yada yada.

      Who then will ask these questions:
      – What is the culture of Julio Lobo and his accomplices that his parents let him hang around with minor girls?
      – Where are these boys’ parents?
      – Do we accuse them of parental negligence for bringing their boys up to be opportunists, rapists and murderers?
      – What debauched Indian culture leads them to drugs and sex?

      With so much blame placed on the victim, no one has time to blame the perpetrators.

    31. I agree that much of the hullabaloo has been due to the twisting of facts by the media and because of political involvements in covering up the murder. Naturally, the Goan dream of being a safe haven for western tourists (legitimate travellers, sex offenders and drug addicts alike) would be shaken if this incident had been seen as a crime by Indians against a foreigner. The natural reaction of any person in power would have been to suppress such a reaction from the media, which would otherwise have reveled in a new story – that of the moral decadence and dangers of touring in Goa.

      There is much that can be said on the issue that may not be true because contrary points of view have already appeared where there was no evidence. A lot of stones go unturned in many murders and crimes against both women and men because of how the circumstantial evidence is framed. There is not much that can be done about attitudes in general, other than write about it and make a hue and cry. However, when this voice is heard long, it gets stronger, and as always with human beings, things improve, but slowly. Such violence (whether against women, children or men) will come under control, eventually and probably very gradually.

    32. [This is a followup blog to two of my earlier Sulekha.com blogs and another Sulekha.com blog criticizing mine by Ms. R Madhuri:

      * The Shaming of Scarlett and Fiona: Part I [Comments]
      * The Shaming of Scarlett and Fiona: Part II [Comments]
      * Boycott of Sulekha over shaming of Scarlett and Fiona [Comments] ]

      ——–Comment Truncated

    33. Hello Kalpana,

      Firstly let me congratulate you for posting that wonderful comment. Seldom have I come across a more rational comment in the Indian blogosphere. Frankly I believe you should have charged a fee for it. But having said that and as you are going to realize, your intended audience sadly isn’t worth the time.

      A couple of very trivial disagreements: certainly while Fiona can be booked for Negligent conduct (not misconduct), I am not sure if her behaviour would amount to culpable homicide (Indian Penal Code 299/300). There was no intent to harm in anyway and if there was, there is no means to legally prove it before the judiciary. Hence the charge isn’t legally viable.

      Your charge (b) i.e. Charge of involuntary manslaughter in the second degree against Fiona McKeown for the crime of extraordinary parental neglect [a less serious felony punishable by a jail sentence] is unfortunately not valid for India because all culpable homicides (Indian equivalent term) must be seconded by a punishable crime. In India, unlike elsewhere, there isn’t a penal code for parental neglect i.e. a law to punish the parent for not caring or in this case not caring enough for their children. This is partly because it has been internalized as socio-cultural decree. It simply reflects how unique a mother is Fiona for and in India.

      However I gather from friends in India that there is one law in the pipeline – esp focusing on deliberate abortion -in- utero of a female child amounting to gross parental misconduct.

      But far more importantly, Indian penal code is applicable only to Indian citizens. Hence if she if is charged, eventually she will end up being deported.

      Obviously lots of amendments are called for.

      I don’t know if the case has been transferred to CBI, which I am expecting to happen, but regardless here is what I think should happen now wrt case:

      1. The investigating team should legally prove what exactly was the crime? Was it rape? I ask this because I have not come across any remarks in the media that convincingly ruled out consent.

      2. Was it murder? As in the perpetrators actually intended to kill the victim or was it just culpable homicide amounting to murder? Or just wrongful death?

      1 and 2 could stem from my own ignorance and from not following the issue regularly.

      3. In any case, if there have been charges of rape and murder with evidence (as I think is the case), the perpetrator and direct accomplices in the crimes must get a life term.

      4. Fiona Mcewan has to be politely informed that in light of her carefree lifestyle not acceptable with that of the land, either she should legally avow her responsibility towards her other minor children before a judge in a court of law or be willing to pay a legally fixed sum of money to the state to act as in loco parentis while she is away on her adventurous trips.
      5. Failing this- Goa has to contact the relevant executive in charge at the centre recommending a termination of her visa.

      All of course after the investigations are concluded.

      6. And in light of the event, the law has to be amended, more relevantly in Goa, to include a clause that the state wouldn’t be responsible for the likes of Fiona. and her reckless lifestyles.

      7. And finally as a sop for the masses and your students referred above, we can commission someone to erect a stone-sculpture at Anjuna which would be tell to the world, the tales of the great Mom and her daughter and how sadly India failed them.

      Regards.

      Sunil

    34. Not sure why Ultraviolet moderators let commentators such as Anokhi (above) past their entire blog posts from their own blogs.

      While both favorable and opposing viewpoints are essential thye should not be permitted to use another’s blog space as their own. They should be restricted to “comments” and readers left free to search and read the commenter’s blogs/sites themselves if they so wish.

      Darlymple seems to be another misogynist. I am sorry he is so venerated by Indian women!

    35. Sunil, siding with the girl’s rapist/killer is “rational”?
      Moral policing is rational?

    36. This is one of the main reasons I left India… how women are treated there, by almost everyone.

      Anyway, the crime should have been dealt with promptly and scientifically with DNA testing. The perps needed to be brought to justice immediately thereafter.

      None of this has been done.

      Whether or not this girl did drugs, drank or slept with your father and all of his brothers makes no difference.

      Whether or not her mother was an attentive parent or not, makes no difference. A crime was committed.

      You can bet a million US green-card dollars that Fiona has sharpened her parenting skills after this. Duh. Who wouldn’t? It doesn’t take a genious or Indian newspapers to make a mother who lost her daughter to murder become over-protective of her other children for the rest of her life.

      Having been to India several times and spent much of my life there, there is NO WAY I would allow my kids the same freedoms there that I would here in USA. No effin way.

      The very first time you exit Indira Gandhi International Airport is enough of an experience to tell you, “this place is NOT safe!!!”

      That her mother was trusting enough to allow her daughter to stay with a “family friend” – a young Indian man of 25 -while she travelled elsewhere for a bit just shows that she knows NOTHING of the typcial Indian male mentality towards goris.

      That is innoncence (or ignorance) on her part.

      I would NEVER trust a young Indian man – with anything!

    37. In addition to my above comment, as un-pc towards Indian men as it maybe, I still nevertheless stand behind, I also want to comment on a few statements by Dalrymple posted above by Anokhi.

      I’ll tell you what I agree with and what I don’t.

      Here are the Dalrymple comments;

      ——————————————

      “Nevertheless, what the mother said in response to a senior Goanese policeman’s remarks, to the effect that foreign women ought to be more careful in Goa, strikes me as the very acme of immaturity, unpleasantly leavened with arrogance.

      She said,

      If they are saying it’s dangerous for British people, then it’s the government’s responsibility to warn people. There should be signs up, but there aren’t. Instead, it’s advertised as a hippy paradise, so you don’t feel it’s dangerous when you walk around.
      Even allowing for the guilt that the mother must be feeling, this is a remarkable statement.

      What she appears to be implying is that British visitors are so important that foreign governments have the duty to protect them at all times of the day and night from the consequences of their own behaviour, however unattractive, degraded and irresponsible it might be; and that, in the absence of official warning notices, parents should assume that it is safe and proper to leave their adolescent daughters drinking into the early hours of the morning in unknown company over which they have absolutely no control. The argument seems to go, what is now almost the norm in Britain in the line of crude, vulgar and slatternly disinhibition ought to be accepted everywhere else as the norm as well.

      From the behaviour that I have observed of British tourists abroad, Mrs McKeown (the mother of Scarlett Keeling) is far from being alone in her belief. Untold thousands of young British holidaymakers believe that they have the right to behave any way they like in foreign parts, and expect the protection of the foreign authorities while they do so into the bargain.”

      —————————————

      Back To Me;

      I understand his point about cultural sensitivity when travelling abroad. God knows I had to change almost everything about me when I moved to India, and that is why I’ve returned to my country of birth – to get my real personality back.

      However, when a place such as Goa is advertising itself as a tourist destination, those who advertise it as such, whether it be the Government or the tourist agencies or both, DO INDEED HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY to inform tourists about the local norms of it’s culture, and of course, have a duty to inform about any possible dangers.

      In many places around the world young people partying and having sexual partners is an accepted part of the culture. Naturally when people go on vacation they want to have fun and to many people, partying and meeting a new boyfriend or girlfriend are part of that. It may not be accepted in India, and that is where India needs to inform it’s tourists from abroad about what are acceptable norms. Then the tourists can decide whether or not they want to go to India or somewhere else instead.

      I have read that some place in Rajasthan, maybe Jaipur, has produced such a brochure informing the out-of-towners that public drinking of alcohol, public displays of affection, heck, even helping a woman out of the car! and a few such other things ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE NORMS and could possibly be met with misunderstanding, disapproval and overall bad vibes from the locals.

      This is a very good idea. Romantic honeymooners would then know that it’s probably not a place they want to stay in for very long and plan the rest of their honeymoon somewhere else. (Perhaps Bombay, where it’s ok to hold your husband’s hand, geez.)

      So, Goa needs to start doing the same thing.

      When I go to an ashram community in India, because it is not advertising itself as a “fun vacation getaway”, I know that a certain atmosphere of religious focus is what I will be met with. However Goa??? Come on!
      It advertises itself as a free and easy place of fun and frolic. Well, maybe that needs to change, because what is considered “fun” by a large population of young people the world over – drinks, drugs, dancing and sex – is now something those very tourists are getting criticised for…. so India, MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!!!!

      Just as tourists must make some effort to conform to local norms when they travel, those local cultures and environments must make some effort to INFORM the tourists BEFORE THEY GET THERE, on what the local norms are.

      Or is Goa afraid it will be bad for business for tourists to know their little “paradise” is almost just as socially repressive for women as Udaipur?

    38. One more thing;

      I’d like to know where Kalpana Anokhi gets the idea that Scarlett was “sluttish”?

      Doesn’t her diary state the she was monogamous at the time – having a relationship with only one man?

      So where does the “sex addict” come in here? Im lost.

      Also, teenagers the world over experiment with drugs. Just because you smoke a spliff or drop a tab every once in a while at a party does not qualify you as a “drug addict”.

      Drug addiction has very specific characterisitics, Kalpana.

      So where did you get these “addiction” ideas from?

    39. I left a few comments, where did they go?

    40. Goa was part of Portugal -not a colony- for 450 years. Not even 50 years ago, India invaded it by the use of force. By it, it set the trend.

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