I was lying in the sun earlier, using the nearby beach bar’s wi-fi to read some news stories on my Kindle. I was dismayed and disturbed to read part of a report about an Indian feminist (the BBC’s description) who is posting rape videos online.
Sunitha Krishnan is clearly doing some terrific work in India, such as setting up an anti-sex trafficking charity called Prajwala, and is a respected feminist (you can read more about her at this TED page)
Ms. Krishnan is, controversially, taking videos of actual rapes which are shared on social media such as WhatsApp, without so much as the assailants bothering to hide their faces, blurring faces and posting them to youtube.
You can see a news report of Ms Krishnan’s actions from Indian television
So far, so good. Anything that helps to identify the perpetrators and sees them jailed is a good thing, in my opinion.
Ms. Krishnan was asked if she was in effect taking the law into her own hands, and responded that “The offender is using this (WhatsApp) medium to shame somebody and to show their impunity. Why should I be so sensitive to their needs?”
What would concern me is that India’s ‘rape culture’ will merely respond by continuing the odious practice of filming, but start wearing masks to disguise their identities. No forward movement, maybe, in how we address the issue which should, in all instances, be that rape is always wrong.
I was particularly dismayed, however, with reference to a new Indian ‘super hero’, Priya, who is cast as a ‘rape survivor’.
Indian comic book hero Priya
Clearly, I’ve not seen the Priya stories ‘in the round’, nor do I fully comprehend the ‘rape culture’ that appears to exist in India -it’s certainly something we’ve written about regularly before- but with a western mindset I find the idea of ‘rape survivor’ odd. In casting Priya thus, surely those young Indian males who think rape is ‘OK’ might equally be moved to imagine that ‘all rape victims are likely to survive, so rape is OK. The female survives’.
In the comic, there’s a core ‘faith’ element to the tale. Whether that has traction in Indian society isn’t for me to say, nor properly comprehend, but I cannot comprehend that such a message would have any traction in the west. ‘If you rape, you will be barred from McDonalds for a month and your car will mysteriously fail to work’. Such a ‘threat’ is unlikely to stop a determined rapist. While the message in the comics is an important one to get out there, is it likely to alter mindsets? I don’t think it necessarily will.