Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb

It’s almost the weekend, so indulge me a bit of crankiness leftover from the work week. I had been avoiding mentioning the arrest warrant against Richard Gere until I realized it rankled. For those of you who have managed to avoid it:

A court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Thursday, saying their kiss at a public function “transgressed all limits of vulgarity”. [Link]

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p designtimesp=”247″>So what, right? So some busybody in Jaipur gets his or her nose bent out of shape and files a complaint “charging that the public display of affection offended local sensibilities” [Link] and finds some judge who agrees, saying that the incident was “highly sexually erotic” and violated India’s public obscenity laws. We blogged earlier about how Ajmer had prepared a booklet instructing tourists of the opposite sex not to hold hands or touch. It’s just more of the same.

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p designtimesp=”251″>Part of my annoyance stems from the fact that this frivolous suit will further clog a court system that can’t handle urgent matters in a timely fashion.

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p designtimesp=”252″>But mainly I’m annoyed at Shetty’s lame ass response to the incident. Instead of telling people that it was just a peck on the cheek, she replied:

I understand this is his culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such manner… [Link]

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p designtimesp=”258″>

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p designtimesp=”259″>Was I the only one who expected her to follow that sentence with a list of activities on stage that would have been far more obscene?

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p designtimesp=”260″>Honey, just a little bit obscene is like being a little bit pregnant. Show some backbone! An embrace and a smooch on the cheek is tame compared to stuff in Bollywood lately. Why pander by arguing that it was kind of obscene but not … you know … not such a big deal.

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p designtimesp=”261″>Shetty compounded the lameness of that response by also saying:

I understand people’s sentiments, but I don’t want a foreigner to take bad memories from here. [Link]

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p>So, OK, it was obscene and people are angry, but please, let him go because we don’t want to ruffle a foreigner’s feathers? Gere’s a frequent visitor to India, he comes to Dharamsala all the time. This is far from his first impression of India.

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p designtimesp=”268″>Maybe it’s because I’m an ABD, but I just don’t get it. Why not say, I’m sorry you all are offended, I’ll ask him not to do it again, but really it was just a kiss on the cheek. It wasn’t on my lips, and there was no tongue involved. None. Now if you’re done with the lawsuits, I have to get prepared for my sexy Bollywood movie …

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p designtimesp=”269″>No, nobody in India ever kisses anybody on the cheeks. Shame Shame! [pic via Rhinocracy]

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p designtimesp=”270″>

UPDATE: The Daily Show does it far better than I have [Thanks Sirc]

Related posts: ShameShame! Paint a Vulgar Picture, Shilpa.

148 thoughts on “Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb

  1. as

    a point of fact, there is some evidence that the practice of veiling and purdah which is common amongst muslims was picked up from elite byzantine (veiling) and sassanid/persian practice (purdah), since these were the lands they conquered. note that athenian citizen women of any status were secluded and segregated out of the view of men.

    RTA, have you ever thought about trying out for Jeopardy? Becuase what you just said seems like the most arcane bit of knowledge, then again, I could just be a dumbass ;)

    Anyhoo, you could be the brown Ken Jenkins (minus the religion)…

  2. let me offer some quick anthropological perspective: there is a tendency for control and repression of female sexuality to occur in societies with a lot of social stratification and patrilineal inheritance. the reasoning is simple: if you lock your women inside you can be assured of paternity confidence (which cross-culturally ranges from .5% to 35% misattribution per generation). if land, status and money are on the line men in positions of power make sure to ‘safeguard’ their lineage. in much of africa garden/hoe based agriculture means that women control the means of economic production, and paternity isn’t as big of an issue since women are the primary economic breadwinners for their children. as these societies ‘modernize’ this is changing and men who are obligated to care for their ‘children’ get much more fixated on making sure that those children are theres. and the easiest way to do this before paternity testing was to lock your woman in the house and monopolize sexual access.

  3. So now that women are starting to work again …

    well, look at the attitude toward sex & work in the USA since the 1960s. i think the entry of women to the workforce, combined with the pill, was the primer for a perfect sexual storm. and look at the increased emphasis on guys working out since the ladies aren’t so economically dependent on ‘em.

    also, re: brownz & sex, the story of sita and her virtue and fidelity suggest to me that the muslims didn’t bring many of these attitudes. sita is a lot like penelope it seems to me.

  4. Has anyone ever thought that maybe the reasons Indians cover up so much (meaning traditional garb like saris etc.) is that we are so damn hairy and nobody wants to see hairy legs and backs?

    I mean Polynesians traditional didn’t cover up at all and they don’t have any body hair and they live in a climate much more temparate than India.

  5. Has anyone ever thought that maybe the reasons Indians cover up so much (meaning traditional garb like saris etc.) is that we are so damn hairy and nobody wants to see hairy legs and backs?

    id rather see indian grls wearing less than more as a cultural norm. but then again, im a guy and therefore creepy inside.

  6. is that we are so damn hairy and nobody wants to see hairy legs and backs?

    you made me laught out loud. i’m a hairy beast right now in despearte need of threading.

  7. you made me laught out loud. i’m a hairy beast right now in despearte need of threading.

    that sounds painfull. yikes.

  8. you made me laught out loud. i’m a hairy beast right now in despearte need of threading.

    BG, I made myself LOL too and I too am in desperate need of threading, that’s why I guess I thought of that… HA!

  9. So now that women are starting to work again …

    …..you will see a dramatic decline in population growth.

    Women who dont depend on men for their livelihoods marry later (or not at all), and have fewer children (or none at all). This has been the experience of all countries that have empowered their womenfolk with educations and jobs. Including Ayatollah-ruled, fundamentalist shia muslim Iran.

    Lets face it, a correction to the exploding desi population is long overdue. India cant even feed half its children yet continues to expand its population by ~18 million every year.

  10. i’m a hairy beast right now in despearte need of threading.

    My Indian girlfriends and I always marvel how the conversation always turn to hair removal when we are together! And somehow we managed to do that here as well, not surprised.

    But to try and stay on topic and keep it focused, I wonder if Shilpa was need in a threading herself? Wonder what Gere thought…

    “Damn, she’s hairier than my gerbil, what the hell was I thinking?”

  11. “Damn, she’s hairier than my gerbil, what the hell was I thinking?”

    :D This is the second time you’ve made me laugh out loud today, Bad Indian G :D .

  12. “Paging the Original Mango Pickle … “

    Ok, Ennis I don’t get it??? What are referencing to?

  13. Somebody who used to comment here whose favorite topic on her own blog was depilation. Any time hair removal showed up on SM, she had something to say.

  14. “Damn, she’s hairier than my gerbil, what the hell was I thinking?”

    Perphaps the statement Shlipa should have made instead, “I understand this is his culture, not ours. You can’t blame the man, he momentarily mistook me for a gerbil. While I am clearly not a rodent, Mr. Gere is attracted to fuzzy things and I haven’t gotten threaded recently!”

  15. Ok I’m not sure if it’s really a big deal in India, or if the Western media just found this story so amusing and ratings-worthy that they’ve splattered it all over the news . I’m inclined to believe it is the latter.

    Like countless comments have already mentioned before me, judging Shilpa Shetty is easy sitting here in the US – India is just weird. Trust me.

    I was in a park with my gf this one time in Bangalore around 9 pm , some time not too long ago, and suddenly this police man comes out of nowhere with a big stick and starts whacking me with it ! The SOB said he’d take us to the police station to get us married ! I was like WTFFFFFFFF but was too freaked out about the potential harassment at the station so I did what he wanted – handed him 100 rupees and got the hell outta there..

    Ah those were the days :P

  16. Come on now are they being for real with this? Damn that some wild stuff right there.

  17. Has anyone ever thought that maybe the reasons Indians cover up so much (meaning traditional garb like saris etc.) is that we are so damn hairy and nobody wants to see hairy legs and backs?

    Saris like these don’t cover too much of our hairiness. :)

    From Wiki on Saris

    “One point of particular controversy is the history of the choli, or sari blouse, and the petticoat. Some researchers state that these were unknown before the British arrived in India, and that they were introduced to satisfy Victorian ideas of modesty. Previously, women only wore one draped cloth and casually exposed the upper body and breasts. Other historians point to much textual and artistic evidence for various forms of breastband and upper-body shawl.”

  18. This has a North Indian vs. South Indian dimension as well,

    Wiki:

    “It is possible that the researchers arguing for a recent origin for the choli and the petticoat are extrapolating from South India, where it is indeed documented that some tribal women wore only the sari and exposed the upper part of the body. Poetic references from works like Shilappadikaram indicate that during the sangam period in ancient South India, a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and head covering, leaving the bosom and midriff completely uncovered. In Kerala there are many references to women being topless, including many pictures by Raja Ravi Varma. Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear cholis. In the privacy of homes, even city women sometimes find it convenient to drape the sari as a cover-all, without the choli.”

    Also, more information about why the saris expose the navel:

    “In the Natya Shastra (an ancient Indian treatise describing ancient dance and costumes), the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity, hence the midriff of the dancer is left bare.”

  19. you know you’ve come full circle when gustav klimts painting is in the post..thanks ennis..

    and as for the entire incident.. those politicians need to get a life..seriously.. they had it on a cnn blurb on TV today.. i mean.. come on now india.. do you have nothing better to to teach the world about?

    i mean for crying out loud, he went for an HIV/AWAREMENSS campaign…and the kiss is getting more publicity than AIDS… the irony of it all.

    maybe they all need to listen to this..

  20. There a couple of issues. The law suits are frivolous. The judges and the guys filing them get a vicarious pleasure in getting famous personalities squirm and show up at their court which would make for grand theater, if they actually showed up. The Indian media is as usual blowing this way out of proportion knowing that it sells. The western media takes it and runs with it knowing that it sells and they can have some fun at the expense of those ‘backward‘ Indians. The hep Indians get twisted over this and get ashamed at their backward fringe. This will last until the next masala comes along. Remember the Khushboo incident in Tamil Nadu sometime back.

    Modesty in dress is a recent phenomenon in India. I remember older relatives and others when I was young in rural Tamil Nadu not wearing blouses. Historically the norm was a single pice of unstitched cloth, the sari for women and the veshti for men. Young women also had a piece of cloth around the breast called the kacchai to enhance their beauty. This was fairly common in Kerala as well and well documented there due to politicing the issue due to caste and power dynamics earlier in the century. It was far more conservative in the north due to Islamic influence from a little earlier, though not uniformly true of all communities.

    Though skimpy dresses in earlier times was the norm, it was still considered improper social conduct to show public affection of a sexual nature. Sex of all kinds was to be done in private by respectable people. In other words, public show of affection of a sexual nature and skimpy clothes did not go together in ancient Indian as in the modern west. Of course, there were all kinds of lewd and bawdy stuff in street theater performances that carries over into the Indian movies to some extent.

  21. I thought you were going to link to this.

    Methinks Pam Bhandari is a shoo-in for this year’s SAJA Journalism Awards. The fact that the deadline has passed and that Ms. Bhandari penned her article in 2004 is immaterial; the following lines are epic, perceptive, and timeless: she must be duly recognized for her genius.

    According to a recent survey, Bollywood’s sexiest appeal is in wet sari scenes. The Website polled on various wet sari scenes and 20,000 voted the top eight. In Bollywood, one way the Directors and Producers have made sexy scenes available is through getting the actress wet while taking a bath or getting soaked in rain without much undergarment. The audience historically went nuts over these scenes. Recent trend shows such a scene required in each movie. And except a few Bombshells, most of the actresses do not mind it. Lisa Ray’s wet clothes scenes are sexiest. However the slideshow will show the top eight scenes.
  22. WTF! Wonder if Iron Maiden or Metallica concerts ever made it to India. Better yet GWAR or some other heavy heavy grunge sSHhit. If that is obscene come over to my “neck” of the woods for a kiss.

  23. When I first saw the video, I thought one could almost make the argument that the multiple kisses and the hug with Shilpa almost falling down constitued a civil battery especially when put in the context of PDA in India. I thought she was trying to get away. She of course recovered and then put up a smiley face which shows consent.

  24. Gah!! Some indian people are just so backward regarding this “obscene” incident.You know it’s true!!!I can’t believe it is getting so much press.This actually reminds me of the time, my boyfriend and I were sitting in a park in Bangalore, enjoying the surroundings in a seemingly secluded area, when he nonchalantly kissed me on the cheek. A local man appeared soon after and admonished us for such behaviour. He wondered why we were kissing near a playground where the children could have seen.(lol!!) I swear we must have been doing horizontal tango in his eyes.

    Remember kids: In India, Kissing=Sex=Pleasure=Very very bad

  25. in bangalore and chennai (moreso at the beach), there are couples all over the place holding hands and hugging, also sitting on a bench/ground with arms around each other and head on each others shoulders. i’ve never seen anyone kiss in public, but it seems like other physical displays of affection are more tolerated. that’s just what i’ve noticed during my last 3 visits to those cities.

  26. Nice way to encourage sexual harassment, Ennis. I’ll remember that this blog is an unfriendly place for women in future.

    If you think that the Klimt image encourages sexual harassment, then I have no idea what to say in response, nor do I know what kind of blog you would consider a “friendly place” for women.

  27. Okay, only after watching this clip on the Daily Show do I see that there is prolonged ass-grabbing.

    Yeah, pretty nervy of Gere to go on The Daily Show this week and represent that it was just a a little peck…old goat. May there be a warrant for his arrest which someone or other tries to enforce every time he goes to Dharamsala over the next seven years.

  28. Nice way to encourage sexual harassment, Ennis.

    Wow. Didn’t realize kisses on the cheek were considered sexual harrassment- and of course, Ennis didn’t do the act himself, nor did he tell people through this blog to go out and perform random acts of kiss cheeking. He as a blogger, simply reported on what was out there.

    Personally agree with Ennis- Shetty coulda acted with more tact. Should taken a lesson from our dear Bollywood feminist Bips whose words were graceful when she was sexually harassed.

    I was reading Kimberly Crenshaw’s Mapping the Margins where she talks about the intersectionality between racism and feminism, and I’m sure there’s probably some angle out there relating to this. But what’s get me about all of this is that you can have something like Gere kissing Shetty and the government goes wild, but then you have that story about the girls that got molested (sorry, “eve-teasing”) on the streets of India at that festival and the government did nothing about it. How about knowing when to pick battles, eh?

    That’s right- those two woman friendly articles I linked were from the women friendly Sepia Mutiny.

  29. i think that the people on this board are being a little too harsh on the indian populace. after all, we must remember that it is the shiv sena, not a mainstream group, making a huge deal out of this. how many people in india do you think actually care that richard gere kissed shilpa shetty. when the KKK protests all the things they like to protest, most people don’t take it as the viewpoint of all americans. im sure about 99.99% of the population didn’t give it another thought, but, of course, we are all getting our news from american news media, who we all know love to do nothing more than demonstrate to its audience the ways of those crazy foreigners who’ll never be good as us. we must recognize this supposed “news” story partially originates from a desire to marvel and snicker at the backwardness of the country in question.

  30. I love the Klimt image. We call it the archetype at our house- the Indian and the redhead and used it for bday party invitations. Khan, the Indian warrior played so well by Ricardo Montalban- in the original Star Trek episode, fell in love with one as did I.

  31. 86 Sonia,

    If only all these people raising a furor over Gere would invest their energy into fighting child sexual abuse

    The people raising the furor are doing so because someone paid them to do it. You will have to find some org that pays people to raise a ruckus for child sexual abuse. Will someone do it? If so, will it attract as much Indian media coverage as Gere and Shilpa. And if so, will American media pick it up with such alacrity as this kiss incident or the Anna Nicole incident for that matter?

    As the leaders of the two sides met mid-way, the cameras were tested and the reporters walked around to assess the situation. At that point the leaders of the pro- and anti-stance walked up to a reporter of a major English-language news network and asked her, “What would you like us to do?”. She looked puzzled. To which they said, “Tell us when you want us to start shouting. We can even burn effigies if you want.” Performance As the cameras rolled, some youngsters whipped out combs to sort out their hair and then began their performance. The press on its part just watched, shrugged and filmed. Needless to say, few of those present knew anything about the issue they were protesting against. It was apparent, as with most issues, that they were a mob completely manipulated by vested interests, who were not out for public grievances but personal glory.

    From: Burning effigies is a part of culture

  32. The person who filed this case has already filed 50 cases before all for frivolous reasons. The angry supreme court is taking strong action against these small time thugs and lower court who are making mockery of the judiciary.

  33. when the KKK protests all the things they like to protest, most people don’t take it as the viewpoint of all americans. im sure about 99.99% of the population didn’t give it another thought, but, of course, we are all getting our news from american news media, who we all know love to do nothing more than demonstrate to its audience the ways of those crazy foreigners who’ll never be good as us. we must recognize this supposed “news” story partially originates from a desire to marvel and snicker at the backwardness of the country in question.

    So? Does that mean the backwardness is just a projection of western orientalism on the Indian subcontinent? Backwardness is present in India and it won’t go away if the Western foreigners do not condemn it. Indian backwardness does exist, and this episode (and the Khushboo one) illustrates that women are blamed for any incident with sexual connotations. The court has issued arrest warrants for the two actors. Seriously, this has not ever happened in the West. There is no point for comparison.

    About the KKK, the KKK has not filed a lawsuit against an American white actress being kissed by a foreigner in public. The courts also have not honored their request and issued an arrest warrant. The KKK also has been condemned left and right, it is socially unacceptable for a American to be racist. When the KKK burn an effigy of a white actress for being kissed and manhandled by a foreigner and file a lawsuit at the court with the court issuing warrants for their arrest, I would accept your critique of Western hypocrisy.

  34. And if so, will American media pick it up with such alacrity as this kiss incident or the Anna Nicole incident for that matter?

    You probably have not read Kristof in the good old NYT, have you? :)

  35. warrants for their arrest, I would accept your critique of Western hypocrisy.

    Avi ji,

    While your passion is commendable but slightly misplaced. Naive, blind sighted…….I am not sure your bold face happiness.

    Indian lower courts are full of idiots, and these warrants are never enforced. However, KKK has done stranger things, more than you want to acknowledge. To this day, you can drive in small towns in America – in Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Idaho, Dakotas where city has banners of KKK as you enter the town. Not to forget the neo-Nazis in rural America, and their influence on rural youth.

    As late as 70s, a mixed race couple in deep south was arrested by the local cops on flimsy morality law which was never enforced, but was used against them.

    Few years ago, Monster Ball was the first movie in Hollywood where there was really a love scene and a story between an African American, and a white American………..before that was sugar coated Sidney Poiter’s “Who is coming for the dinner?” or platonic (no relationship) like Pelican Brief. To this day, intimate relationship between African American and white American is hardly touched in American media, even though it goes back to 100s of years.

  36. SM Intern said:

    If you think that the Klimt image encourages sexual harassment, then I have no idea what to say in response, nor do I know what kind of blog you would consider a “friendly place” for women.

    How about reading my actual words? I said nothing about Klimt. My comment was about the post made by Ennis, and the attitudes of this blog towards sexual harassment experienced by women. If you can’t actually understand the words in front of you, what are you doing working for a blog?

    Taz said:

    Wow. Didn’t realize kisses on the cheek were considered sexual harrassment

    He didn’t just kiss her on the cheek, he grabbed her, yanked her around, and then “kissed” her — and from the visuals I’ve seen from the incident, it wasn’t consensual, welcome, or even particularly comfortable for Shetty.

    I’d consider a non-consensual manhandling on stage by an old white dude sexual harassment, yes. Women’s bodies are not public property.

    - and of course, Ennis didn’t do the act himself, nor did he tell people through this blog to go out and perform random acts of kiss cheeking. He as a blogger, simply reported on what was out there.

    I never suggested he did, but as an apologist for a man who sexually harasses a woman, he is complicit in promoting sexual harassment as an okay thing to do, while any dissent to it is cast as prudish, over-the-top, and “backward”. Apologising for sexual harassment equals enabling it. Blogs where sexual harassment is cast as anything less than awful and offensive are unfriendly to women.

    I was reading Kimberly Crenshaw’s Mapping the Margins where she talks about the intersectionality between racism and feminism, and I’m sure there’s probably some angle out there relating to this.

    You’re joking, right? A white man who postures as a “Buddhist” manhandles a South Asian woman on stage at an anti-AIDS event, and there’s “probably some angle” about racism and feminism relating to it? How is it about anything but racism and feminism?

  37. Some vigilante justice by KKK as late as 2005.

    In a July 2005 incident, a Hispanic man’s house was burned down in Hamilton, Ohio, after accusations that he sexually assaulted a nine-year-old white girl. Klan members in Klan robes showed up afterward to distribute pamphlets. In May 2006, a Ku Klux Klan group led an anti-immigration march in Russellville, Alabama.[71]

    Avi ji, what do you think about this?

  38. Avi ji, Some thing to think about how American courts have acted about “white women” relatioship, and 2000 Alabama law repeal. Direct quotes from wikipedia: California Supreme Court in Perez v. Sharp effectively repealed the California anti-miscegenation statutes, thereby making California the first state in the twentieth century to do so. It would be nearly two decades more before these laws were struck down nationwide. In 1965, Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who had married in Washington, D.C., writing:

    <i>Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow,and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.[6]
    

    This decision was eventually overturned in 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

    At the time that anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, 16 states still had laws prohibiting interethnic marriage. Those laws were not completely repealed until November 2000, when Alabama became the last state to repeal its law. According to Salon.com:

    ...after a statewide vote in a special election, Alabama became the last state to overturn a law that was an ugly reminder of America’s past, a ban on interracial marriage (sic). The one-time home of George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. had held onto the provision for 33 years after the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. <b>Yet as the election revealed—40 percent of Alabamans voted to keep the ban</b>
    

    40% in 2000 percent ain’t small minority. Hyper-ventilating over women being stolen by outsiders is an universal hysteria.

  39. @avi:

    Backwardness is present in India and it won’t go away if the Western foreigners do not condemn it.

    whoa!! welcome churchill back from the grave.

    you think the court system gives a sh!t to “western foreigners” condemning it? thankfully no. personally i am glad it is that way.

    that said, backwardness is present in india—though for this incident, i would call it stupidity not backwardness. everything else aside, it is a huge travesty of justice to even consider insignificant events like this while the court system in india is bogged down by years of pending cases.

    illustrates that women are blamed for any incident with sexual connotations

    again, we are equal opportunity backward here. warrants for both!

    and the kristof article. who do you think works on behalf of the human trafficking victims? not most of your western foreigners. we have our problems, we solve them. you gloat about them and gleefully say how backward we are.

    do you have any idea about the profile of trafficking that goes on? do you have the slightest idea of how to counter it? i don’t need the sound bites you will take from kristof’s article—his article has a point, you don’t. do you have any idea of the grinding poverty that makes otherwise normal people abet human trafficking in bihar? and can you even say if poverty is a dominant issue here? which will help better: empowering women only, or empowering community leaders? is lack of access to education relevant, or is it a spurious variable? does trafficking cut across community lines, or are some more vulnerable than others? how much is across state lines (easier to curb, indication of how organized the mafia is)? is it diffuse, or are there some gangs running most of the trafficking?

    i will listen to you if you have anything half way intelligent to say. or if you even knew what questions to ask. the difference from kristof and you: he sees the problem, you think the people are the problem.