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April 7, 2014

No justification for violence and discrimination

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Written by: pdcadmin

By Ioanna Konstantinou

Having lived the Indian reality from within, I have come to know that discrimination is based on numerous and often interrelated aspects such as religion, caste, ethnicity, disability, social status and gender. Discrimination against women is systemic and gender-based violence is pervasive and perpetrated with impunity. The fact that Indian women face violence in broad daylight is outrageous but the fact that most of their fellow citizens won’t go to their aid is even scarier and disturbing. In fact, sometimes they participate in the acts of harassment and violence becoming perpetrators themselves.

This harsh reality made me wonder: “Where is civic sense? Where is humanity?” Big cities in India are such rough places to live in, especially for women and the poor, full of hostility, anger and apathy. People are lying on sidewalks and no one leans over them to see whether they are dead or alive. The mentality and functioning of the police and the judicial system are partially responsible for this inertia as it can become quite complicated and painful to go through the process of testifying. However, I truly believe that there is more than that. People are not taught to care about their fellow human beings, let alone women! The Indian Dream consists of achieving wealth, fame and high social status…that’s what huge disparities between rich and poor result in. Studies suggest that gender imbalances can fuel conflict and violence as a disproportionally big young male population struggle and fight over job opportunities and marriageable women.

The correlation between limited availability of job opportunities and violence made me think of the outbreak of racist mentality, attacks and xenophobia back at home, in Greece. A country that prides itself on its hospitality, in the mid of an economic and social crisis it has become an inhospitable and even dangerous place for many foreigners. Distortion and exploitation of valid concerns about crime, politics of hate in combination with the hardship of the crisis and inconsistent migration policies resulted in an atmosphere of intolerance and violence against migrants (legal and illegal) and asylum seekers.

Civic sense is a prerequisite for the improvement of any given society and it entails respect of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of its members, effort for the improvement and the well-being of the community as a whole, consideration and active engagement in issues of common interest. All these qualities, however, are impossible to exist without the core foundation, that of humanity. No matter how legitimate the concerns of Greek citizens might be about illegal immigration and criminality, they cannot justify the violation of basic human rights of any person that are protected under national and international law.

Discrimination and hatred dilute core humane values that have defined us as people for centuries. In periods of crisis, there is a strong temptation to find and target scapegoats. Immigrants and refugees are themselves victims of a system that resorts to racism to avert the anger and distress of the Greek population that is suffering under the financial crisis. The crisis is already costing us a lot; let it not cost us our most valuable asset, our humanity.

Ioanna Konstantinou is a graduate of the American College of Thessaloniki and the University of Glasgow, with a specialism in human rights and international politics. She has been working in New Delhi on India’s national and international human rights accountability in India and the UN. joan_konsta@hotmail.com






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