Shame the rapist, but what about the voyeur in you | ht view | Hindustan Times
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Shame the rapist, but what about the voyeur in you

The gangrape video doing the rounds on WhatsApp proves that there are many Indian men who are not rapists, but harbour a perverted bent of mind in the private.

ht view Updated: Feb 11, 2015 16:36 IST
Abhishek Saha
WhatsApp gangrape video

These-five-men-can-be-seen-posing-and-smiling-for-the-camera-while-taking-turns-to-gangrape-a-woman-Photo-NDTV

Anti-trafficking activist Sunitha Krishnan became news last week because of her campaign to "shame" and arrest five men seen in a WhatsApp video taking turns to rape a woman. The day Krishnan's campaign called #ShameTheRapistsCampaign was being talked about, an acquaintance told me a similar rape video had been posted on his school alumni's WhatsApp group.

"I feel so ashamed of it, right now. Of course, I can't control who posts what on message groups. Many well-to-do men with large smartphones, seemingly upright from the outside, must have watched the clip, enjoyed it and passed it on," he said.

His comment reminded me of a scene from Anurag Kashyap's 2009 cult film Dev D, where the female protagonist, Leni, finds herself caught in a scandal after her lover shoots an MMS of one of their intimate moments.

When Leni's father tells his wife that he has also seen the video, Leni breaks down. She says, "How could you watch it, dad?" For Leni, the world shatters when she realises that father too is someone who can watch a pornographic clip, even if it features his own daughter. In a rage, Leni asks him whether he took pleasure out of watching the clip. As the dad leaves the room angrily, Leni sits with her mother and asks, "How could he, mom?" "I know," the mom replies in tears. In another room, ashamed of himself, Leni's dad commits suicide.

Leni's video clip was that of a private, consensual sexual act made public by a rogue. But the video clip at the centre of the #ShameTheRapistsCampaign is that of a real gangrape. In the video, the rapists grin at the camera and continue with the heinous crime even as the victim begs of them to stop. Krishnan got the video edited to hide the victim's identity and highlight the men's faces. She then circulated the video on social media and YouTube in an attempt to identify the men.

On the one hand there is the crime of gangrape and on the other is the perversion of watching a woman being tormented, derive pleasure from it and share it. It exposes the psychology of the rapists who wanted to violate the victim and then keep an option open to blackmail or threaten her whenever needed. Or maybe they wanted 'to have a little more fun' and post it on WhatsApp and boast to their friends about the incident.

The video doing the rounds on WhatsApp proves that there are many Indian men who are not rapists, but harbour a perverted bent of mind in the private. In spite of knowing the extent of brutality involved in the video, they watched it and perhaps enjoyed it. The fact that the video has been circulating for months now shows that even men who were horrified by the crime lacked spine to do something about it. Our disgust at the gangrape notwithstanding, the general cultural notions about women and the common man's attitude towards women in everyday life also need some change.

READ: why we are hooked to gruesome videos of rape, beheading

As Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, said on a television channel, "Before we demonise only the rapist, we should also think about how the rapist within many of us actually consumed that video."

And it is in this context that the idea of shaming is attractive, because it holds the argument that in the case of a sexual assault it's not the woman who loses her 'izzat', but the man. When a man tried to inappropriately touch a woman in a Bhubaneshwar-bound Indigo flight recently, he got his punishment instantly and publically. The woman made a video of the man, forcing him to apologize on camera. She questioned him exhaustively and rendered him defenceless and ashamed.

The #ShameTheRapistsCampaign, if successful in identifying and nabbing the alleged rapists, will be a significant moment in the fight for women's rights-probably the first such use of the social media and social-networking platforms. By the time they are caught, these criminals would not be unknown faces covered in black taken to police custody. They would be men with their dignity destroyed.

(The views expressed are personal.)