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Why Are Indian #Films Confused About #Sex, #Rape and #Prostitution?

March 27, 2014

jism posterWhile pornographic packaging of female sexuality is blatantly used to hard sell Indian films, a woman’s libido and her consensual sex with partners of her own choosing continue to be “controversial” topics in Indian cinema.   Forced marriages are not portrayed as rape.   The marriage of rape victims to their rapists is often seen as a form of justice.  And parents who prostitute their daughters are not viewed as pimps.  In an article where she takes a critical look at how Bollywood films treat the subject of rape, consensual sex and prostitution,  Rita Banerji argues that the reason Indian films fail to address these issues in a meaningful way is because the film makers, like the rest of Indian society,  have failed to affirm a woman’s right and choice over her own body and sexuality.  

Below is are two excerpts from this article.  To read the full article on the Gender Forum Journal click on this link :  http://www.genderforum.org/issues/gender-and-contemporary-film/bollywood-baffled-over-sex-rape-and-prostitution/

 

by Rita Banerji

Excerpts from “Bollywood Baffled Over Sex, Rape and Prostitution”   in Gender Forum Issue 46 (2013) · 

para 21&22.

daminiThe film Damini acquired a special social significance in India in 2012, because the name of the protagonist of this film was also ascribed to the victim of the high profile Delhi gang rape case of a young woman in a bus. Like Damini in the film, the Delhi rape victim had also valiantly fought to bring the rapists to justice. However, in the film Damini fights for justice for another woman, a young maid in her in-laws house, who she witnessed being gang raped by her brother-in-law and his friends, and who later succumbs to her injuries. It is in light of the socio-sexual significance of both Damini the film and the character, that this particular incident in the film is oddly perplexing.  [Before Damini’s marriage to a man she likes, she lives with her parents and sister]. Damini’s parents are [worried because they are] unable to arrange the dowry that men are demanding to marry their daughters.  In the meantime, Damini’s sister, Devika, decides that she will elope with [a man called] Birju to save her parents the trouble of finding a suitable man and paying him a big dowry. The problem is that Birju is not only a toxic personality—abusive, alcoholic and with a criminal past—but he had also been stalking, sexually harassing and terrorizing Devika for months. Devika explains to a puzzled Damini, that the reason for her choice is that he is the only man who seems to want her, and that she wants a chance at living—that is to be married, to have a sex life and to start a family. Damini defends Devika’s action to her parents, who seem more concerned about the ‘shame’ Devika has caused them in the community by secretly eloping, than about the psychopathic nature of the man that Devika has married. Damini reminds them of the many humiliations Devika suffered when grooms selected by their parents rejected her, and that unlike unmarried women who commit suicide when their parents cannot shell out big enough dowries to get them married, Devika had made a choice to live her life! This hints at the tremendous sexual frustration that builds up in unmarried women, because of the cultural restrictions imposed on them. But one also cannot help wondering that if this is the way women in India intend to get married, then should not they also exercise greater freedom to meet men and explore relationships before their marriage, so they can have a larger and more decent pool of mates to choose from?

paras 29 & 34 

Matrubhoomi-A-Nation-Without-Women-2003-223x300This view of rape and female sexuality allows for various other culture specific and systematic forms of sexual violence on women. One of these is the practice of ‘bride trafficking’ in India, as depicted in the film Matrubhoomi (The Nation without women). This is essentially a form of culturally sanctioned gang-rape and sex-trafficking. Due to the rampant and misogynistic practices of female infanticide and feticide, there are regions of India where men cannot find women to marry, and they resort to buying ‘brides’ from distant regions. However, the bought ‘bride’ is treated like a sexual commodity for the use of all the men in the family regardless of who she married. In this film, Kalki who has had a carefree and happy upbringing, finds herself imprisoned in a nightmarish hell after her marriage, as she is raped day and night, by all the men in the family, and not just her husband’s four brothers, but his father as well. Later on she is left tied in a cowshed where random men from the village take turns raping her. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of her story is that her father, once aware of her in-laws plans for her, had freely struck a monetary bargain with them in lieu. The response of Kalki in Matrubhoomi, who is gang-raped by her husband’s brothers and father is particularly perplexing. Kalki is shown to have had a happy and carefree upbringing. Her father tried to keep the fact that she is a girl hidden, so desperate men did not try to grab her, by having her dress as a boy. This actually seemed to give her more freedom of movement, as she roamed the forest, exploring, singing, and jumping over walls. How would a woman like this respond if she was suddenly held captive and repeatedly raped by various men? What would be her physical, psychological and emotional response? Except for one instance, much later in the film, where she makes a failed attempt to escape, Kalki is shown to be almost completely passive. She is not just a sexual slave in the house, but also a domestic one, and she submits to all of it with a mechanical detachment. This is not an unexpected response in victims of captive violence, but it sets in gradually once the body and the spirit have been broken. Especially given the personality we meet when we first glimpse Kalki, we would expect her to resist, to fight back furiously, to challenge her abusers, to feel betrayed by her father, to be resentful, fearful and sad. But we see none of these responses in Kalki. Might this be a directorial oversight? To a degree, perhaps it is. The vision of Matrubhoomi is clearly male-centric and perhaps even narcissistically so. It seems interested only in how men feel — their sexual frustrations and fears, their anger and deadly hostility towards each other in their fierce competition for mates. In a way it is ironic that the male narcissism that annihilates women at birth, and then proceeds to dehumanize and commoditize the ones that survive, is not able to look beyond itself, its own ego, interests and emotions, even when it attempts to grapple with this issue via a creative medium. It does not feel it necessary to ask – what does she feel? What does she think?

 

© Gender Forum Issue 46 (2013) · ISSN 1613-1878.  All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder ofThe 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide.  Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies, is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide.  Her website is www.ritabanerji.com . She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji

9 Comments leave one →
  1. mebsworth2013 permalink
    March 27, 2014 3:00 pm

    Indian Women are seen as Breeding Animals/Maids and Nothing Else. They Abort them in America. In India, they Murder them at birth or put them in Orphanages….. Why don’t we SELL them Penises to sew on them!! $$$$

  2. shuja permalink
    March 27, 2014 6:27 pm

    Asian countries need to draw a borderline in between age groups, “U” universal certificate is issued for Hindi movies even if they are not appropriate for under 18 and 12 years of age groups, this is one of the main reason behind sexual abuse and improper mishandling of the behavior, Govt-institutions and sensor boards should handle these matters carefully and play their parts properly to eliminate the cause from the grass route.
    TV drama’s showing romantic scenes should also have some sort of sensors as they are usually watched by the entire family on a daily basis. I guess the whole system needs to fully revived as every freedom is not for every age groups.

    • March 28, 2014 10:53 am

      Shuja — that’s besides the point. But do you understand that I’m saying there is something very fundamentally misogynistic in how Indian film deal with the topic of sex, rape and prostitution?

  3. March 28, 2014 11:06 am

    Reblogged this on REVOLUTIONS IN MY SPACE: A BLOG BY RITA BANERJI and commented:

    Gregor Kern once said, “There’s nothing worse than bad films for a good cause.” I’m constantly astonished by how films made with the intention of addressing sexual and other forms of violence on women in India, are often so deeply misogynistic!

  4. March 30, 2014 5:29 pm

    It’s the writers who decide.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_%28film%29

  5. April 1, 2014 2:54 pm

    Reblogged this on Discombobulate.

Trackbacks

  1. Warum herrscht bei indischen Filmen Verwirrung über Sex, Vergewaltigung und Prostitution? | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: "50 Millionen verschwunden"

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