By Dr.Naveen Chandra Joshi
A few months ago, top religious leaders of all major faiths got together to urge the government to take imemdiate steps to check vulgarity, violence and obscenity in the electronic, print and film media.
A voluntary organisation called ´Forum against Obscenity´ was also launched to fight the growing menace in the visual and print media for establishing a cleaner existence for all. The joint declaration signed by top religious leaders stated: “We shall no more be mute spectators to stray, ineffective governmental directives in this regard, most of which are blatantly violated by the mushrooming agencies that are responsible for mass destruction of the country´s social and cultural base.” However, nothing has been done so far in this regard, either by the government or the powers that be.
Protesting against the rapid corrosion of traditional values due to the ceaseless projection of vulgar scenes by television channels, films and the print media, the religious leaders said that political apathy in rooting out such a media malaise has started eroding human values and the basic principles of a good life, thus endangering the country´s very social fabric. Indeed, the growing showcasing of vulgarity in all types of media, day in and day out, has been going on unabated and with impunity, without anyone saying, “Enough, no more!”
Despite the law against obscenity, the Indian woman continues to be projected as a sex object in TV serials, films and even the print media. Her bodylines and contours-either in a nude or semi-nude state-are being highlighted to the maximum to cater to the carnal desires of the viewers or readers. The new serials, in particular, depict sexual assault, rapes, obscene dialogues and songs. Obviously the only justifications for such programmes could only be acquisition of cheap popularity and making easy buck.
No wonder, for various historical, social, religious and cultural reasons, and despite many constitutional guarantees and legislative measures, women are still depicted as backward and meek, meant to be ruled over by menfolk, if not in actual practice, then certainly in India´s electronic media and films. In films, however, the situation has been existing for the last several decades when the concept of women´s emancipation had not been given a single thought. But the most poignant part of it all is that ever since the television came into being, various serials have done little to improve the Indian woman´s image. Rather, women have been shown as a typically harassed lot, thrown out of their house if not willing to succumb to the dictates of their husband, father, son and so on.
What is strange is that the viewer shows no revulsion, offers no challenge to biased projections, or expresses any regrets for such blatant outrage. The whole gamut of dialogues, stories and picturisation are taken to be as a way of our life. It has never been realised that if womanhood is not treated well by the mass media, it would pose a serious threat in times to come when the coming generation will show no respect to women. As it is, according to the findings of the National Status of Women Committee, the status of women has been declining steadily. The National Commission of Women has also expressed its concern for the welfare of womanhood and has called for stalling the denigration of Indian women in every possible way.
It is ironical that the initial recognition of women´s rights, which emerged during the freedom struggle and was expressed in the Constitution, has run aground. The extreme reticence of women-a euphemism for the voicelessness into which they are thrust-is a throw off of the kind of feminine culture we have fostered to crop up again and again in varying circumstances, affecting the course of justice. Depiction of Indian woman either as a totally helpless person in society or as a woman who becomes an easy prey to the lecherous and lascivious men, has done the greatest disservice to Indian womanhood.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986 which prohibits sale, distribution, circulation of any books, pamphlets, indecent portrayal of women has not imposed strict censorship on cinema which has taken the lead in representing women in as many derogatory roles as possible.
How good it would have been if films and TV serials could educate the masses on the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act, various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and such other laws which protect the women´s rights.
(The writer is a retired professor of Delhi University.)