Caged Minds.

Posted: October 1, 2012 in pOstEd WeEkLY

Human Rights are in place for a very obvious reason—many of us without even having to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights know exactly what the underlying foundation is: people of all races, gender, ethnicity, religion have the right to be healthy, to have knowledge and to be free of isolation of such rights. Foucault says, in his chapter of Panopticism, that “the constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected…, applies the binary branding and exile of the [leper] to quite different objects.” But if we extract the term or title “leper” from his statement, we find once again, the very common differentiation between Us and Them, Normal and Abnormal.

For the sake of connection, we can explore the misuse of the legal system in the Philippines between the police force and FSWs. First, we take the UDHR* and examine Article 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 23, 25, or we can just see that over seven different universal rights are being broken by the police force upon FWS daily. There are documented anecdotal reports of FSW being arrested repeatedly while not even working, women who have their homes broken into and raided by the police, women who are raped, beaten, or forced into situations where they must perform sexual acts in exchange for their [temporary] freedom.

It would not be disagreeable to say that sex workers are committing an illegal action, however, their punishment should be legal and just punishment-not torture, mental and physical, rape, a life infused with fear to simply live, or even to be condemned for committing an illegal action that often they have been literally forced to commit.  Many women face severe poverty, abandonment, and even death for not maintaining their duty as a sex worker (this applies not only to women but mainly to children or young teens).

When Foucault describes the treatment of the lepers and the normal vs. abnormal he creates a rather detailed and somewhat beautiful illustration of the cage-like structure in which the Panopticism Model was meant to create. This idea of fear and how to become enveloped by it, living and breathing a life of fear. How once the structure of constant surveillance and condemnation into such cages are removed, the instilment of the idea is already foundationalized into the core of those who were encaged. The fear is already instilled in the individual. On page 201 he states “Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power,” clearly stating that this model whether present or removed is constant.

Foucault, M. “Part III, Ch. 3: Panopticism.”Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage, 1979. pp 195-228.


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