Opinion: Dear Papon, there are other ways of showing affection towards a child

File image of Papon Photograph:( Others )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 27, 2018, 10.55 AM (IST) Shomini Sen

'He kissed her out of affection!' argued a friend as we sat discussing Papon's kiss-a that has shocked almost all his ardent fans and opened up once again the discussion on what is deemed right and what's deemed wrong when we are dealing with something as sensitive as sexual misconduct or harassment.

A few days back, Papon along with the contestants of The Voice India Kids celebrated Holi, live on Facebook. Papon, a mentor on the show, was seen smearing colours on everyone.  At the fag end of the video, Papon can be seen grabbing a minor girl's face, smearing some colour on her face, rubbing his nose on her face and planting - in what appears- as a peck on her cheek. All this happens in a fraction of a second and it is really difficult to decipher as to where the kiss actually lands- the cheek or the lips. What gives away is the minor's expression soon after, who looks visibly shocked - almost trying to say 'What just happened there?' and quickly wiping her face. 

Soon after, a case was a registered by a Supreme Court lawyer, accusing the singer of molesting the minor. Papon, the contestant, and her parents have gone on record to clarify that the act was being misconstrued and what the singer did was merely out of affection. 

Calling himself an "extremely affectionate and expressive" person, Papon in a statement clarified that it was just a case of the faulty camera angle. "To show affection for an 11-year old child who I have been mentoring for a while now is not an alien concept for me," he said in his statement. 

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Now, here is the basic problem with the entire case. The minor may have been Papon's protege on the show for a few months, but it still does not give the singer the right to show his affection in such a manner. An adult, however expressive and affectionate he may be, should know where to draw the line when it comes to showing love to a minor who is not your own child.

In his statement, Papon points out that he is a father of two young children and that the accusations could destroy his and the little girl's family forever. Being a father, Papon surely must have tutored his children the difference between 'good touch and bad touch'. Would he, as a father be okay if a man showered affection on his children the way he did? Would he be okay if a man rubbed his nose on his child's face and smeared colour on the kid's face the way he did?

Papon's lawyer Gaurang Kanth told a TV channel that his client only “gave a peck on the child’s lips” as a gesture of affection.  He stated that Papon considered the child as his own and hence consent was not required. “My definition of kissing is not like yours,” he told the anchor, “I think it is a peck.”

It could be a faulty camera angle, it could be a harmless peck on the lips or the cheek- but one can differentiate between bad touch and a good touch. Unfortunately, Papon's actions fall under the former category.  The girl may have rubbed off the peck from her lips quickly in a state of shock and gone on record to pacify that all is well, but that itself doesn't make the act right or harmless. There are lines that need to be drawn when you are dealing with someone else's child- doesn't matter if its a boy or a girl. 

This isn't the first time that a powerful man has tried to show 'affection' to a minor or to someone less powerful than him. In fact, Hollywood is currently undergoing a massive change as more and more people are calling out such behaviour. Back home, many such incidents have been- first reported- and then forgotten. But things have changed over the years. There is more awareness now and more and more people are calling out such predatory behaviour and rightly so. 

One could argue that there is really no case when the minor and her father have gone on record and spoken in defense of the singer. But, just for a moment think that was the father asked to speak under pressure? We live in a world where kids' reality shows serve as a perfect platform for a career in glamour and showbiz for the contestants. Often, it's the parents who re-live their own unfulfilled dreams through their children- pushing them to adapt to a lifestyle which entails long hours and a lot of unnecessary hard work. If the father had accused the singer of misconduct, not only would he have to involve himself in a long-drawn legal battle, but his child perhaps would have to withdraw herself from the show even. 

By brushing the issue aside as an act of affection, we not only encourage more such behavior but also discourage those who want to speak out about such wrong deeds. 

Papon may have quit the show, the minor's family may have brushed the incident aside, but that still doesn't change the fact that a man in power took undue advantage of a minor. The family's reaction is also typical. Most do not want to acknowledge sexual misconduct because it is an uncomfortable situation to deal with. 

Let this case serve as a reminder for adults to make their children understand the difference between bad touch and good touch. It should also serve as a lesson to adults on knowing where to draw the line. Often we go overbaord smothering a friend or a relative's child with affection much to the disomfort of the kid. They feel violated too, they may not be able to express it. However close you may be to a child, if he hasn't been created by you biologically, know where to stop while showering kisses and hugs to him. There are plenty of ways to show love- smothering a child with colours, and planting a casual, 'harmless' peck on his face isn't one of them. 

 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Shomini Sen

Shomini has written on entertainment and lifestyle for the most part of her career. While writing on cinema remains her first love, her other interest lies in topics like gender, society and Indian literature.