Public shaming incident under investigation in India

A woman in India was allegedly forced to walk naked for six miles through three villages because she had engaged in an “illicit love affair.” As if that on its own isn’t horrifying enough, the incident was caught on a cell phone camera.

via BBC.

Critics say that it was only after mobile phone clips of the woman went into wide circulation that the police swung into action.

Six of the men who allegedly molested her have been arrested.

The West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) has also asked the district police for a report into the incident within a month.

“If we are not satisfied with this report, we will do our own investigation and submit recommendations to the government,” WBHRC chairman Narayan Chandra Seal said.

What has especially upset many is the involvement of locally powerful people – alongside schoolboys – in the incident.

Every few months a story like this breaks where a woman in a rural part of the world is shamed for having romantic relations with someone she was not supposed to and two things keep sticking out to me. The first is that the men are never publicly shamed for their involvement in these affairs, this is true both in “modernized” places and in remote regions. When it comes to the social limitations of love, accountability always falls on the shoulders of women.

The second is that these incidents are being caught on cell phone cameras and uploaded to the internet forcing us to accept that the current condition in the world right now is that women are continually abused, killed, beaten and humiliated for expressing their sexuality in ways that their social circumstances can’t handle. If this incident had not been caught on video, we wouldn’t know it would happen, her community wouldn’t be brought to justice and this woman wouldn’t be in protective custody. The power of new media can not be understated here.

But the juxtaposition of living in a condition where having a woman walk six miles naked is appropriate punishment all while having access to new and social media is appalling to me. Can new and social media bring justice to women that are victimized by these gross abuses or is it one more thing for people to laugh at online at the expense of one humiliated woman?

Thanks to Daniel for the link.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    It depends on the audience. There are a few sadistic people out there who find amusement in someone else’s misfortune. The question I ask is whether we’ve gotten to the point where we callously view anyone’s suffering as a potential means of entertainment.

    Look at the average sitcom. Most of the humor is in seeing people place themselves in awkward and uncomfortable situations. That’s why the whole genre is called situation comedy. It may be harmless fun, but I’d question whether we’re laughing because it makes us uncomfortable, or laughing because we think humor has to come at someone else’s expense.

  2. Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    “Can new and social media bring justice to women that are victimized by these gross abuses or is it one more thing for people to laugh at online at the expense of one humiliated woman?”

    Obviously it can bring justice- this story is proof. But the better question may be, will these types of punishments continue to happen?

    This is not some rainbow-colored happy-think. In general, these situations will still occur. But what I take away from this more than anything else is that the decision was made by someone or some group unaware of the potential social media impact. Thus it’s probable that the abuse inflicted on these women will be altered.

    What I wonder is if the changes will move these situations away from the public eye, or use that social media to cause shame in a non-criminal way. That’ll be up to the people who live in the places where this occurs.

  3. Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    You’re right about blame nearly always falling on the woman. These kinds of stories send shivers down my spine. Even worse are the instances of women being beaten to death for being raped, because she is no longer pure. It is clearly her fault, blame her. All the men did was coax her, right? Even in our own society, men still complain and reject women for having too many sex partners even if they themselves have had more. Unwanted pregnancy never even involves the man it seems, it’s 100% her fault. And if she chooses to have an abortion, she’s shunned by some for murder. If she has the baby, she’s shamed for being slutty and irresponsible. The man is even frequently treated like the victim when she gets pregnant, like it’s something she’s done to him.
    Hopefully this new ability to share this with the whole world will spark something that could lead to change. As you said, without the phone, no one would have helped her as an individual. Maybe enough people will see the videos to help all women in these situations.

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