Sex Choice As
Rape As infotainment !
By Subhash Gatade
15 February, 2005
was early eighties when aminocentis tests arrived on the Indian scene.
Primarily devised for detection of genetic diseases in the foetus and
to assist in delivery they soon metamorphosed themselves into determination
of sex of the foetus in the craving for a son in the Indian familities.
"Better Rs 500 now than Rs 5 lakh later" One could see billboards
advertising these 'tests' in a blatant manner provoking expectant parents
to resort to these 'tests' and eliminate 'unwanted foetus' (another
acronym for doing away with female foetuses). For a layperson also it
was clear how one could save oneself from paying hefty amount as dowry
if one could get an idea of the sex of one's child at such a low cost.
Two decades later
and with the figures of the 2001 census staring us in our face ( which
further confirmed the skewed gender ratio) one expected that the corporate
world which keeps patting itself on the back for its 'social responsibility'
would show more sensitivity towards this issue. But looking at the recent
case of a leading telecom firm ( Reliance Infocomm) against whom a case
under the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques ( Prohibition of Sex Selection)
act has been registered it becomes clear that for bigwigs in the corporate
world all talk of gender sensitivity is only for public consumption.
The company in question Reliance Infocomm has been charged for 'displaying
an advertisement on its website pertaining to sex determination of the
foetus.' The ad talked about chinese tips for predicting the gender
of the child. It also talked about techniques ensuring and increasing
probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex." ( HT,
Feb 1, 2005)
Ofcourse the only
consolation Reliance Infocomm can have at this juncture is that it is
not the only one from the corporate world which can be singled out for
engaging in such practice.The process of sanitising violence against
women to enhance one's business prospects can be said to be a effective
marketing strategy the world over and media has been a party to this.
In this connection
the ad series launched by the Maruti-Suzuki people year before last
for their new car model Zen was representative of a trend which is in
vogue. ["ECONOMICTIMES.COM, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2003 05:01:16
PM ] The controversial ad showed a young beautiful blonde being stalked
by a tiger through the city at night. The girl passes through the various
areas of the city. ...Whenever she is on the road, it is the new look
car that follows her. The moment she is on stairs or overbridge, the
car is transformed into a tiger. The TVC ends with the girl finally
giving up the chase with a deep male voiceover 'Surrender, to the new
... The advertisement fashioned on the predator concept
was chosen to attract young consumers below the age of 35, and it was
deliberately selected to build excitement around the brand in
a completely different manner. Only a persistent protest by a
small but determined group of gender activists and intellectuals compelled
the company to withdraw this ad which '.. had converted rape into a
In the petition
which this group sent to the big bosses of the company as well as diffrent
concerned organisations it was cleary stated that the said ad 'completely
ignored the campaign against carjacking and rape.' It also overlooked
the fact that cars in general had become a weapon for men, who abduct
and rape women. It has been repeatedly argued that the projection of
cars as predators, women as sexual objects and travel as a hunt constitutes
rape culture. .. "
Explaining the rationale
behind presenting titilatting violence before its viewers or concealing
the routinesed violence Jennifer L. Pozner (former director of the FAIR
Womens Desk) makes clear that , controversy rather than facts
sells in a media climate that considers news a product
and readers and viewers consumers. As an example,
female genital mutilation affects millions of women worldwide, yet you
rarely hear about this. ..Ofcourse according to Ms Pozner the 'economic
benefits' of 'rape - the most titillating crime' are immense. According
to her " The sexual brutilization of women is a highly marketable
business, bringing in some $10 billion in profits in the U.S. every
year. As lucrative as the portrayal of rape is in the adult entertainment
industry, it stands to reason that it is also a profitable story for
the news media as well."
The UNIFEM (United
Nations Development Fund for Women) published a report in Nov 2003 that
one out three women are likely to be sexually assaulted during their
lifetimes.We know that in many such cases the perpetrators of such crimes
have stated in an unambigous manner the way the 'media' has played a
role in it.
In her well researched
piece Media Culpability In The Continuum Of Violence Against Women,
Lucinda Marshall ( feminist artist, writer and activist, founder of
the Feminist Peace Network, http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org/) critically
examines the issue. (30 September, 2004 Countercurrents.org) "..[M]ost
disturbing is the disproportionate coverage of sensationalized violence.
Invariably, rape stories get far more coverage than domestic violence
stories. In all likelihood, this is because rape stories usually focus
on one individual woman. If she is attractive, and particularly if she
is white, she is a very marketable victim." While Ms Marshalls'
studies must have been based on the way media in the west presents women,
it cannot be said that her observations are irrelevant for Indian conditions.Even
a random look at the programmes or ads on the media circuit in this
part of the world makes it clear that things are unfolding here in a
much vulgar manner.
Few months back
a programme in Hindi modelled on the famous 'Hard Talk' demonstrated
the depths to which the media here can reach supposedly for providing
titilatting infotainment to their viewers.Interestingly the great villain
of yesteryears who was a guest on the programme had not expected that
the compere would put him in jeopardy. ( Seedhi Baat, Aaj Tak, 5 Sep
2004, Prabhu Chawla interviewing Pran) Discussing his track record in
films and presenting before him some interesting queries about his life
and career, all of a sudden the wellknown compere broached the topic
of the 'rapes committed by the villain' in many of the films he had
enacted.Despite visible discomfirture on the 'villain's' face he unashamedly
asked him, looking at the galaxy of 'sexy heroines' in the industry
today ' whom would you 'prefer' in the upcoming film if given a chance'
? Taken aback, the 'great villain' who had carved out a niche for himself
in the industry then with his acting, somehow wriggled himself out of
this situation. Ofcourse the compere went on with his chimpish smile.
It is really disturbing
that this trivialisation of rape in full glare of the cameras largely
went unnoticed.Barring a single commentator in Hindi none from the fraternity
of media watchers even deemed it necessary to comment on the way in
which the most obnoxious and inhuman violence against women was made
a butt of joke. (Anil Chamadia, Kathadesh, Hindi Magazine, Oct 2004)
Looking at the detailed description the question naturally arises, where
do we go from here? We have a corporate world which has yet to come
out of its patriarchal mindset.We have a civil society whose majority
has been an important party in perpetuating this institution of male
Is not it high time that one really understands the myth of corporate
social responsibility which is being peddled with frightening regularity
these days Looking at the gravity of the situation nobody can deny that
it is high time that everybody also becomes more aware of the role media
can play in ameliorating the condition. Coming back to the successful
intervention by a small group in compelling the company to withdraw
the ad the movement to 'empower the viewer' and make her/him 'media
literate' needs to be strengthened. Is not it true that with the growing
importance of media in politics as well as public life in contemporary
democracy the importance of having such 'watchdogs' is being felt more
urgent than ever.