Sunday, February 17, 2008

Marriages made in Maharashtra!!

Compulsory pre-marital HIV test will not serve the purpose...

Maharashtra government is planning to make HIV testing compulsory before marriage. And just in case if this decision goes into a law then Maharashtra is going to be the first state to be doing so. Maharashtra is trying to bring in this law as the number of people living with HIV/AIDs is ever increasing and it is already second in terms of number of people living with HIV.

On the face of it, this stance looks like a desperate step on the part of the government to arrest the crisis of HIV, but to what extent would it be successful in its cause remains questionable. For it is already a known fact that couple of years back even Andhra Pradesh and Goa tried to bring in similar legislation, but they failed on account of opposition from people and civil societies. Forget opposition from people, even if the Maharashtra state government succeeds in making it a law, there is no assurance that it would culminate to its objective.

No wonder, the success of this law would fully rest on the fact that people, who are knowingly or unknowingly living with HIV, honestly declare the same before they get married. And this is where the problem lies. As unlike any other infection, HIV/AIDS has a huge social stigma attached to it, particularly in the Indian context. So irrespective of whether one is aware or ignorant of his/her infection, it would be extremely difficult for them to openly declare their state. In fact, it would be more difficult for those who are completely ignorant of the fact that they have been living with HIV, women, and those adults who have contracted the same during their birth from their parents. Particularly for the women, it is going to be all the more difficult, knowing the inherent double standards of our culture. As a net result of this, there is a high chance that in order to circumvent any such declaration, people would in general resort to doctored reports. And going by precedence what we are going to observe is a growing industry of touts, doctors and administrators, manufacturing ‘clean’ certificates, diluting the entire purpose of such laws.

Other than this, this law can lead to higher degree of criminalisation in our already criminalised society. As, the moment the government raises this impediment of a natural state of being, it necessarily would vent out in some form or the other, resulting in more rapes, molestation and suicide cases. Thus if on the one hand, the government has to mitigate this growing crisis then much before bringing such laws, which is apparently more of a knee-jerk reaction than anything else, it is imperative that there should be essential intervention towards augmenting social sensitivity towards these people. If they are not permitted to marry on this account, then there should also be an equal initiative from the government to create a forum wherein they also get partners of their choice and that too with equal dignity and social acceptance.

All in all, bringing in such a law would just be a half-baked patchwork, without giving any tangible results!!


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