The Shaming of Scarlett Keeling


(Cross-posted at Ultraviolet)

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 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.

27 responses »

  1. I’m living in London; the reaction here to the whole thing is (surprisingly?) similar; the mother is painted like she was asking for it, and the “varying paternity” is thrown at her as if it concludes the argument. The hypocrisy is galling: more liberated mores means society shows itself as accepting of people choosing hippie-like or nomadic lifestyles, but then it will care about you less because you have made that choice? It is difficult to be quite sure what to make of it.

  2. FWIW, it seems more like a bias against liberal Western values than any misogynism.

    Plus, while I understand and empathize with your point about getting her a fair trial and the police not jumping to conclusions, I don’t quite get your nose-up-turning at the link between “debauchery” and the crime. In every society since god-knows-when, “debauchery” is linked to crime, so an investigation on those lines is definitely appropriate for the media, though not as much for the police.

  3. Ashwin couldn’t have put it better. I work for an organisation in the UK that takes young adults from Britain to work on community projects in India..and everyone at the workplace has been feeling the same too about the Scarlet Keeling episode. I just wonder why.
    Yesterday, someone told me, ‘If you happen to dress like a hippie in Goa, you need to make sure it’s a full length dress, with long sleeves.’ !!!
    What ever happened to free will, to liberal cultures and most importantly to personal choice? I’m awfully confused.

  4. as a radfem i agree with your take on it, lifestyles no matter how alternative are immaterial.As far as I’m concerned a 15 year old has the right to drink a bottle of vodka and curl up on a bench and the only person who should be near her is a female cop to wake her up and get her home. The case was mishandled from the start, there is corruption in India, as in Pakistan, and this rather disorganized family is at one end of the scale- at the other, we have a hijabi college girl raped simply because she wants an education in a place like Peshawar. Both the hijabi and the white girl in Goa are victims of male sexual violence full stop. Now given the nature of men, all men, cos I remember hearing the screams of a girl getting raped in Central London years ago on Christmas Eve, shouldn’t we as caring and thinking individuals limit risk- the way we do with health, life and everything else? Should we have to? No. Do we need to? Yes. I always limit risk, doubly so given that I am outspoken in my hatred of Islam, my former religion and I have been threatened several times. I don’t mess around with fire, no way, men are totally dangerous in my opinion and as loud as I am, I always put my own safety first. I think I am conditioned to be like that, I don’t underestimate the dangers I am in, including from even extended family members. Its shouldn’t be like that-but it is and I acknowledge that because I was raised under a miserable system where I was only ever second class as a girl. The western lady in Goa, did anything in her background prepare her for the cynicism some one like me views the world with and men in particular? No, clearly not, and for that reason, even though I want to grab this woman by her dreadlocks and scream, “Why the hell did you leave your daughter for 14 days while you went to bloody Karnataka and you knew she was in a den of drugs and liquor?”, I would, out of compassion more than my natural feminism hold my silence and unreservedly support her in her fight for justice. Yet I admit, even as a lesbian, I feel my maternal instincts stirring here and I am quite conflicted about it, but then, what Pakistani woman wouldn’t be, even if she is an ex Muslim?

  5. Ashwin — Interesting how revealing that is about the true colours of even “liberated” societies.

    DufusMaximus — Firstly, context of how I used the word debauchery: “…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.” Do note the sarcasm. Secondly — no I do not see the link between so-called debauchery and crime. Crime by definition is anything that breaks the law. The law is defined by extremely poor and archaic standards all over the world, as can be seen from calls for reforming this act or that constitution everywhere. Debauchery is relative. Are you saying that anyone who leads a life of indulgence, regardless of whether or not it hurts anyone else, is asking for crime to be committed upon them?

    Miapan — Recently met some English and Canadian teenagers in Chennai who came here via an organization like yours, and they spoke a lot about how conscious they have become of their attire and so on. Unfortunately, the world we live in demands that we negotiate with it on its terms. My guess is that Scarlett was just doing what she thought was pretty normal by Goa’s standards — the family has been in India before, and I’d think they would have known what they can get away with in various parts of the country. It’s the hypocrisy of this situation that is frightening: all along, Goa has been promoting this image of being one of the big hippie havens of the world. What till now has been acceptable in Goa is suddenly being painted like an affront and offensive.

    Apostatepakistanigirl — Completely agree that an alternative lifestyle is no justification for cruelty, torture, inhumane attitudes and behaviour. Ultimately, did Scarlett or Fiona hurt anyone deliberately? If they didn’t, then what they do is nobody’s business but theirs. Or so it should have been.

  6. 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.”


    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.

  7. Kalpana — Or should I say, Ms. Kalpana Anokhi. Why, hello again! Looks like you copy+pasted your rant on both UV and this blog here! That’s a little more effort than necessary to get me to notice or respond to you, but something tells me, Ms. Kalpana Anokhi, that your comment is really meant for everyone but me.

    So here we go, let’s copy+paste what I wrote on UV:
    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”. 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. 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. 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.

  8. Hi Kalpana, most of the points you made, I made myself, albeit in a rather more compassionate way and in way that I hope, and think ,was more respectful to the womanhood of the murdered girl. You ought to remember, she was allegedly murdered, and if the culprits are found guilty, murder is a crime of intent, moral and social ambiguities notwithsanding. I think as Indians, as there are with Pakistanis too, there tends to be a sense of moral righteousness here, and I understand that, the family have chosen a lifestyle I myself would not want, but hey, we need to be careful with that kind of logic. If we follow it through we are drawing up a rapists charter.Who will fall into it in India? No one, just gora drug addicted trash, you think? Well, what about the sex workers of Falkland Road and Kamatipura- can they be raped on the basis of their lifestyle (they are by the way, routinely, by dakoits). What about Mumbai college girls, some party in Colaba and catch a taxi up to Bandra or wherever at all hours, bright young med or management students- drunk maybe, maybe alone in a little black and yellow taxi. Are they fair game? What about someone who has an alternative lifestyle and refuses to marry and aposticizes from her religion, someone like me for example? Am I someone who wouldn’t mind getting raped in your eyes?
    I actually agree with the practical logic of your argument, yet you also need to focus on the victim and most certainly you ought to back off from making a moral judgement and appaling adjectives like ‘licentious’ and ‘sluttish’ tend to make me think that you are a victim of organized patriarchy, just as Scarlett was a victim of patriarchy gone wild. The morality of the victim is not the issue, the mother’s crass disregard for her child’s safety, yes, perhaps, but not legally so, and the victim’s morality ought never to be an issue. Kalpana, even if Scarlett had slept with half a dozen men on that night, nothing justifies rape, not even your moralizing. I am not sure if you understand me here, just try and stand back from the patriarchal attitudes you have imbibed over the years and think from a purely womans’ perspective, which Sharanya does very movingly and often very beautifully. I do however strongly agree with you Kalpana in your grand assessment, rogues, ruffians and scum are always on the prowl, I think the same as you, but when they strike a woman- blame THEM for the vicious woman hating male exploiting devils that they are, not a 15 year old girl who probably would have looked up to you, had you ever met.

  9. Sharanya…apostatepakistanigirl…

    Nice try…imputing motives to my comment by saying I asserted Scarlett deserves what she got. That is not what I said.

    The problem with both of you is that you are not too demanding of yourself in analyzing the nuances of what is being argued. You have these stock feminist replies that you take off the shelf and cut-and-paste and press “Submit”. It is the Cosmopolitan magazine crowd with easy access to Blogdom.

    There is a difference between these two statements (I assert the former but not the latter)

    A: “A negligent parent who doesn’t pay attention to her toddler in a busy market should not be surprised if the child gets hit by a car or a bike. And the parent should be held responsible for not paying attention!”

    B: “If a car hits a wayward toddler of a negligent parent, then they both deserve it.”

    Nobody deserves to be raped or killed..if you both pause to reflect before you hit your keyboards all fired up, there is a difference — it is a critical one — between saying one “deserves it” and saying “one is responsible for it”.

    Nobody deserves to be raped, killed or otherwise violated. That is an idealistic axiom and I will sign it wholeheartedly. I will also sign a statement that says all property — whether a 5th avenue penthouse left opened or a luxury convertible with keys in ignition in Via Rosario next to Terminale Centrale in Rome — should be respected and not robbed or stolen. I will also sign a document that says we should have world peace and have it now.

    Not only is she herself a clueless, decadent woman…a societal parasite who vacations on state dole…roaming around the country side with some fly-by-night stud (who, by the way, has has recently abandoned McKeoan and her children from five other studs. Surprise. Surprise.) She left her 15 year old child, alone and penniless, with 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? Did she really think that a 15-year old girl with no trusted care-takers and with no money in a strange, foreign land will be safe? What is she smoking? I know…it is first grade Goa cannabis.

    But for our Ms. Sharanya “who-are-we-to-judge” Manivannan, this is an acceptable lifestyle and nobody should pass moral judgment. Why is this an acceptable lifestyle, Sharanya? Since when is it not required for parents to teach their children the values and virtues of hard work, modesty, struggle, achievement, moderation and expect them to pass them on their children and they to theirs? Since when is it OK for a mother to live a sluttish life herself, allow her children to be the same…be a drug addict and an alcoholic and allow her children to be the same…allow for multiple men to check in and check out like some hotel guests? Since when is it OK for her to let her children…all nine of them…grow up fatherless and rudderless? We as a society, Ms. Permissive Manivannan says, should smile and say, “It is OK! It is just another lifestyle! No harm done to others, no? So why should you bother? Fiona, you go girl…go look for the sixth stud!”

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. When I saw your response, I actually laughed. Cosmo Magazine is feminist by your standards? Get thee to right now! It’s quite rich of you to talk about copy+paste and the like, considering your commenting style.

    It’s come to my attention that part of your comment above is copy+pasted from a spiteful blog post on Sulekha. Tsk tsk. Don’t you know that leaving your blog url when you post comments is common etiquette, and of course, if you’re going to slander a person or their viewpoints, you should at the very least include the url of the post that offended you?

    That’s the point at which I stopped laughing. Because I also noticed that your IP address (which WordPress saves, of course) showed you to be from Madras, not New Delhi as you purport on Sulekha, and you had been to my blog six times within a day, with two visits lasting nearing an hour each! That makes you a cyberstalker. Scary!!

    Theodore Darymple’s expression of his point, that tourists need to be more sensitive toward their surroundings, is very very different from your malicious tirade. He does not bring “morality” or “character” into the picture, only the absence of what one could term street-smartness. You may quibble over the semantics of whether “deserving it” and “asking for it” are the same thing, and actually, they are closely related. Prove to me that Scarlett walked around with a sign on her head that said “Please rape me, brutalize me, murder me” and then I’ll concede that she asked for it. No — what she and her mother did was in accordance to what they thought was accepted behaviour in Goa, as per an image Goa permitted and promoted for decades. On that note, I highly doubt that what MacKeown said according to Darymple was a direct quote, and even if it were, I would give her a margin for confusion relating to shock, stress and grief. Everybody deserves compassion. Which is why I’m not even blocking your IP address.

  12. Brilliant commentary by Dalrymple on the attitudes of Brits abroad. I have relatives in Mumbai and it’s amazing how ‘British’ the Pakistani Apostate Girl feels as soon as I fly into India. Isn’t that sad? I try not to be like that, but in all honesty, I feel a kind of tension building up on the flight itself and desais sort of look at each other out of the corner of their eye as if to say, “see, I’m more British than you and I feel really out of place going back.” To my great shame, really and truly, I have acted abysmally in India. But I have done so out of insecurity, and I have learned from my mistakes. In Pakistan, no, I was in a vulnerable position, and I knew how to act, well, most of the time I was afraid out in public. But I have behaved badly in India. I admit it. But then look how Canadian and US based Indians act on vacation in India, hypersenistive to cleanliness, to the heat, to the food, it’s part of some need to ‘caste out’, or is it an attempt to bolster a sense of insecurity with really being western? When an Indian guy is with his white wife in some Mumbai restaurant, then he’s in a world of his own, trying to renegotiate his interaction with India, and coming across as a complete phoney in the process, “Hey, like you didn’t eat chutney without worrying about your allergies when you were an IT undergraduate, come on.” What is India to westerners? To Dalrymple, yes, this gentleman is ‘old school,’ he speaks with sensitivity and awareness. Yet to both desais in the west and hippie beatnicks- India is something that exists in the mind’s eye, to one it is something that demeans and challenges, to the other it is the ultimate expression of freedom and a return to nature, mysticism and connection with the soul. For the hippie, India represents anti materialism, freedom from shame, abandonment and a negation of illusionary moral concerns. Where does this come from, because obviously, India is extremely materialistic and bourgeois to those who are of South Asian origin. It’s incredible actually that anyone would associate India with sexual license, this great country where a Jain can not marry a Parsee. I think it started with a misunderstanding of Hindu mysticism, things like the guru, concepts like nirvana and renounciation of wealth and status. That last point is very appealing to hippies, who see genuinely something in Indian culture that they can identify with. And yet it is woefully at odds with the family centered wealth building ethics of Indian society. Should they identify with it, no, I don’t think so, Hinduism is not for export, but I know many white women who are convinced India is the place you go if you want to ‘tune in and totally chill out’. There is a sub culture based on a misunderstanding of India in the west, yet to those who adhere to it, it remains potent. It is not challenged because as much as these people think they are attracted to Indian culture, they have no interest in Indian society. I don’t think it was simply bad motherhood on Mrs.McKeown’s part, there was a deeper cultural aspect to it, one that is based on a fundamental misinterpreation and idealization of Indianess. How far back does it go? To Ravi Shankar, to the Victorian age, who knows? I think Morrocco has the same issue, westerners think of Jimi Hendrix and a land fullof grass, when Morrocco is in fact an increasingly conservative Islamist country. I don’t see this changing any time soon. There is a ‘myth’ of India in the west, it is powerful and it is longstanding.It is probably a form of Orientalism at heart and the sad thing is, though it is based on a concept of Indianness- that whole idea is flawed because it excludes one very basic component- Indian people and their actual, not perceived values. Free love as an ideal- versus the conservative nature of Indian society, myth meets reality, our friend Kalpana nose to nose with Mrs. McKeown. Oddly, given all the negativity, in a strange way, it is a meeting that ought to happen.

  13. Sharanya,

    I have been following the news of Scarlett because I was shocked and saddened that this teenager’s life was so suddenly and brutally snuffed out.

    Your comments about the state of affairs and the mistreatment of women in India is so apt and true – I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I don’t understand how Kalpana, being a woman herself could not have any sympathy or even empathy for that matter. Unless Kalpana is actually a demon going around disguised as a human being.

    I’m glad you have time and again rebuked her nonsense.

    Keep it up Sharanya!

  14. Mark C. — Thanks for the support. But I’m quite freaked out that I continue to get searches like “sharanya manivannan anokhi” “ms sharanya manivannan” “sharanya scarlett”. It either means that Kalpana’s blog readers actually bothered to look for my article, which she didn’t even link to when attacking it. Or she’s still here, lurking away… :-S


    [This is a followup blog to two of my earlier blogs and another 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] ]


    After having read, reflected on and learnt from all the opinions, most of them opposed to my own, and having understood Fiona McKeown a bit more, I have changed my opinion. I genuinely thank you all — Keshav, Madhuri, Rajeev, supriyad, Bijaya, Ratan, ConfusedSoul, BlackMagicWoman, reflector, Sharanya Manivannan, dimwit and others — very much for your patience, time and thoughts on this matter and helping change my own thinking. Sorry for the earlier blogs that were written in haste.

    In the matter of the death of 15-year old Scarlett Keeling, I now advocate and ask the Government to file charges against Fiona McKeown for the crimes of gross parental neglect and involuntary manslaughter in the second degree and seek punishment of a jail sentence.

    There is also a discussion in this blog addressed to devoted students (such as those listed above) of the liberal ideology which says the only time we should find fault with humans (especially, women) is when they become violent, wear fur or fail to recycle.

    I will first quote a commonly-accepted, legal definition in Western countries of parental neglect (which becomes culpable when such neglect leads to avoidable damage or impairment) and then come back to this a little later:

    “A condition in which a caretaker responsible for the child, either deliberately or by extraordinary inattentiveness, permits the child to experience avoidable present suffering and/or fails to provide one or more of the ingredients generally deemed essential for developing a person’s physical, intellectual, and emotional capacities.”

    There is sufficient case law where parental neglect caused by the desertion of a child without arranging for proper care and supervision was found criminally negligent and, therefore, culpable. For example, in The People of the State of Illinois vs Donna Kozlow (Illinois, 1998), the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for accidentally leaving her baby in a car for three hours, leading to the baby’s death. Also instructive is Santosky vs Kramer (New York, 1981) where three children were removed from custody of their parents when the State found evidence of neglect. Please pardon my quoting US case law as that is what is easily available…but the principles underlying are common to most civilized countries.

    In the matter of the death of 15-year old Scarlett Keeling, legally a child, there is, in my opinion, sufficient merit in the Government simultaneously bringing and prosecuting vigorously two different charges:

    * Charge of murder in the first degree against the two male suspects for the crimes of aggravated assault, battery, rape and murder [the most serious class of felony punishable by death or life sentence without parole]
    * 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]

    It wouldn’t matter a whit Fiona is a grieving mom who is sobbing on national TV or the murder investigation was bungled by corrupt police. For those liberals wringing their hands and wondering who are we to cast stones, let me break it to you gently that law is all about us, represented either by a judge or jury, casting stones, making sure they hit the target and it hurts plenty.

    In involuntary manslaughter — variously called criminally negligent homicide, culpable homicide, or gross negligence manslaughter in different jurisdictions — there is no intention to kill or cause serious injury but death is caused due to recklessness or criminal negligence. Many parents such as Donna Kozlow have been found guilty and have served sentences for negligence of their children that led to death.

    In the case of Fiona McKeown, there are two additional contributing factors: (i) her own drug abuse, and (ii) condoning of drug abuse by her child. In many cases, both of these were found tantamount to parental neglect and children were removed from the custody of such a parent.

    Based on whatever I have read about the case and the applicable laws, there is enough here to send Fiona away for a good 2-4 years.

    Keshav, Madhuri, et al are skilled, shrewd debaters who know how to win arguments and shut people up by using two time-worn rhetorical stratagems:

    1. Deflect through unjustified extrapolation (“So, what you are saying is Scarlett deserved to die!”)

    2. Deflect through unjustified connection (“So, what you are saying is because Fiona may not have exercised good judgment, she loses her right to seek justice?”)

    This shrewdness of debating masks a common liberal frailty…lot of emotion, anxiety and angst to be sympathetic and good to all, considerable warmth of the heart but wanting in hard-headed thinking and lacking in logical precision. Nobody is asserting either of the above (a) or (b). The liberals lob for themselves easy, air-ball, fictitious arguments, associate their opponents with bad motives and shoot them down with ersatz glee.

    I tackled the unjustified extrapolation mischief in my Part II blog. I will address the unjustified connection mischief in this and also make a broader philosophical point in defense of moral policing for your consideration. Let me construct my defense of point (b) in the form of a programming construct using my training as a software engineer:

    for (i=1; i < 1000000; i++) {

    print (”

    Fiona MacKeown is fully justified in asking for complete justice.

    We must all demand/ensure the criminals are punished.

    The victim’s history does not grant permission for violation.

    The crime is no less heinous because of parental neglect.

    No matter what the antecedents, Fiona deserves justice in full.

    Job of the police is to protect and to prosecute without bias.

    Police must investigate and prosecute the crime to the fullest.

    Police must ensure law and order in the state.

    Corrupt policemen and policewomen must be sacked..”);


    The only time the police can raise the issue of parental upbringing is if they decide to bring charges against Fiona McKeown which I recommend. I say this with sincerity and seriousness. And not with amusement as some have accused. I hope my detractors are convinced that I harbor neither of the two motives (a) or (b) above. That, however, does not and will not get me off the track of finding fault with Fiona. Some have said it is her privilege and prerogative to have whatever alternative lifestyle she wants and bring her child up however she wants…and we should not be the moral police and pass judgment.

    That is nonsense.

    Most philosophy is about what we should do, not what we can do. The determination of right and wrong have to do with what works in the best interests of the society, both in the short and in the long term. Of course, your code of what is right and wrong may be different from mine…and we both are correct and justified in asserting and debating it. When we do that, we become the moral police and that is not only fine but required. Many great philosophers and writers are all finest paragons of moral policing. When Shakespeare says “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is to have a thankless child!”…he is moral policing against ungrateful children. In the aggregate, the consensus view of what is right and what is wrong becomes the social more and, when it matures sufficiently, becomes law that presents benefits and penalties to catalyze or curb wrong or right behaviors. A civilization is defined more by what we forbid than what we allow.

    My problem with liberals is with the deep anathema they have for moral policing. I say moral policing is necessary and it is good. It is what holds us together as a society. It is for this reason I find fault with Fiona for the way, as the facts are known today, she bought her daughter up. Through example and neglect, she watched – or, worse, didn’t –as her child drove to ruin’s precipice and into the unpoliced junction of sex and drugs. The day you turn away from finding fault with such a terrible upbringing of children is the day you encourage a hundred Fionas to behave exactly the same way because our liberal friends see nothing wrong with that. Because bringing up someone the right way is hundreds times harder than the way Fiona behaved.

    Just as it is the job of the police to prosecute fairly and speedily, it is the job of a parent to bring up her or his children so they are good, capable people. One may not always succeed, but one must not be found wanting of effort.

    Before you jump up and down saying I am anti-women (which in itself is a crazy thing to say given my gender) …there are numerous men who are despicable though may not be culpable; wastrels who derive so much happiness from flitting from one bimbo to another abandoning their children from earlier marriages. They set terrible examples to their children in varying degrees of course, who are detrimental to society…because they place themselves and their own selfish interests above those of their children. My argument regarding their detriment to the society can be understood when you imagine a society comprised entirely of such people who don’t care about their children or are terrible examples. Within a couple of generations, you will have a society that is inferior in all respects…filled with people who suffered from bad or non-existent parenting and lacking in will, ability, self-denial, achievement and success. People who will most likely pass on such imbecility to their own progeny.

    The reason I argue vehemently against irresponsible or nonexistent parenting on both men and women is because that is the single biggest crisis facing the West today in sharp contrast to the pre-1960s puritanical father-and-mother pair who struggled hard, denied themselves, were devoted to their children, and passed on the same ethic to their children who they cared so much about. It is the same devotion of our parents that is powering India today.

    If we don’t rail against it, India will trod the path of the West and that is the biggest single risk the country will face. Not separating paper from plastic or cruelty to animals that seems to obsess the liberal mind.


  16. Kalpana, you are struggling to come to terms with your own social fascism which verges on the Darwinian and the myth that India is morally superior to the west, which you no doubt believe. I live in Britain, I was born here, though before you trash me as the ‘cosmopolitan set’ let me tell you also that I have roots that extend back to Karachi and Patna and that everything we have today we worked damned hard for. When you stop the exploitation of Indian women by feudal landlords, close down the locked brothels of Bindi bazarr where toddlers sit on the pavement and cap the export of thousands of Chidren from Nepal to Mumbai and then on to Dubai, then you will have something to shout about. And believe me,I will be so proud of India I will cheer with you. You are trying to defend family values perhaps, while ignoring the real problems of India, which is inherent if you claim that India is superior to the west which you do. How can that be when you haven’t solved your problems yet, Mumbai is sin city and drugs are rampant in Indian society, like in Pakistan- and in the west.Aids is spreading like wildfire and Hijras prance from one traffic light to the other as domestic violence cases are never out of the newspapers. Sorry, perhaps it’s pointless to debate this any further with you. Have you ever thought of emigrating to Pakistan, really, you sound just like the women of Jamiaat Islami. You aren’t a BJP activist are you by any chance? India is an amazing country, fantastic, my own ancestral roots lie in its soil, but you can’t hand on heart claim moral superiority over China, Japan, Europe or anyone else at this particular juncture of history, so why do you? You do it because you are arguing from an extremely moralistic conservative nationalist supposition, your whole problem from the start, and horribly, with the logic of the true RSS activist, you have gone from micro moralising to moralising on whole civilizations! I think the blog site owner is correct- IT IS WORRYING, more than we ever suspected- why do you do it?

  17. “Before you jump up and down saying I am anti-women (which in itself is a crazy thing to say given my gender)”

    No one is questioning your gender but your sense of what is right, just and fair. Ms. MacKeown has enough troubles without you hollering for her head. Why don’t you leave the poor woman alone and get a life?

    Hasn’t she suffered enough already? Do you or I or for that matter anyone realize, that life for that family will never be the same again? Its enough to lose a member of your family without self-appointed moralists wanting to burn them at the stake.

    If Fiona MacKeown has made a mistake – the whole world knows she is paying a terrible price.

    You – Kalpana Anokhi – are not part of that price.

  18. Dear Kalpana,

    I’m sure you’ve come back, so I’m sure you’ll see this. Despite using comment moderation, I usually approve everything that isn’t spam, even if it’s contrary to my views. Even when certain people read the first two sentences of something then launch into a tirade and put e-fatwas on me (yes, it’s happened, but that’s another story), I often give them a chance to air it out on my blog, and then respond.

    But my blog is not a forum. And since your most recent loooong comment directed at Mark C. ended with this frankly highly stupid and laughably inaccurate statement: “Folks like Sharanya Manivannan and apostatepakistanigirl are misguided when they come to this unquestioning defence of Fiona McKeown. In fact, they do feminism a disservice and rob it off its credibility when they say you cannot or must not find fault with Fiona because she is a woman.”, I’ve decided to no longer give you the privilege of using this blog as such. I’m not going to continue to be a party to your mean-minded slander. For someone who engages in debate as vociferously as you have, it is sad that you choose to misread people and deliberately invent quotes for them. I would no sooner stand by Fiona for simply being a woman as I would stand by you.

  19. this is not the time for intellectual debate-someone needs to get the deranged bastard who killed this poor girl…
    whoever murdered this girl is a fucking asshole who will be killed in a most barbaric manner

  20. Regarding Kalpana’s use of the words “sex addicted” and “drug addicted”, I ask – what is her proof?

    According to Scarlette’s diary she was monogamous and sexually involved only with her boyfriend, correct?

    Teenagers the world over experiment with drugs, it’s a right of passage, so to speak, again, where is the proof of any “addiction” and by what medical authority’s standards?

    Anyway, as a non-Indian woman who has spent year after year in India, I agree with apostatepakistanigirl – how on Earth anyone conceives of that country as a hippie dippie, freedom loving, anything goes paradise is beyond me.

    I meet non-Indians who assume because Goddesses are worshipped in India that human women must be very revered – NOT!!!

    Oh well, you can’t blame someone for dreaming, right?

  21. And Kalpana, your case against Fiona does not stand because India has no such laws of parental neglect like the glorious USA has.

    In India even today hundreds of thousands of village children are arranged in marriage by their parents. Millions even, probably.

    Yes, little 11 year old girls are raped on their suhaag raat and it’s not considered “parental neglect”.

    You would be lucky if India went down the same road as the West actually. Then you might be able to implement some child protection laws!

    And as far as Dalrymple, yes, tourists travelling abroad must make an effort to conform at least somewhat to local norms. HOWEVER, the local cultures must make an effort to INFORM TOURISTS BEFOREHAND what those norms are.

    It may be bad for business and many tourists (especially female ones) may opt out on visiting your place, but it’s the least you can do if you want to “preserve local culture”.

    I think it’s Udaipur or Jaipur that did just that, made a brochure to inform tourists of what is considered acceptable and unacceptable to the locals (helping a woman out of a car is un-acceptable by the way).

    Go figure!


  23. hey BOSS
    THIS is not BRITISH. even though what they have done to us is been given back. As they say “HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF”. No one asked Fiona to keep an under aged child (that too with micro mini on her body) all alone in Goa and go to some other state. WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR GOODS KEPT IN OPEN AREA ARE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED AS IT IS CALLED LAVARIS.

  24. Swapneel Kamat – Women are “goods”? Really classy. And what the hell is Lavaris? Damn right this is India, which is why I am horrified that events like this happen here – and that people like you defend them.

  25. While I agree that no one with any common sense would expect a BMW to remain with keys and wide open in a crime riddled area without being tampered with I (first) would not equate a 15 year old woman to a possession) and (second) am a little confused as to how the writer knows the daughter/victim was a “sex addict”?

  26. All in all a very thought provoking blog although, I must say, I fail to understand why it is easy for Indians and foreigners alike to think to blame India’s people,society and culture(s) in specific? Is it only because of this particular incident or have people not traveled around enough to know? I for one, have been to South America and I will not bother elaborating on what I know and have seen there with respect to drugs,rape,murder and battery! Kids in America are allowed to carry automatic weapons (?) to school every day! We don’t want to say “problems of this world” because the numbers are much higher in India as compared to countries that have 1/10000 th of our population? If we have 1 rapist in Columbia for every 100 here in India,is that still not enough for us to deem this as a “problem world over” considering the population?

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