By Uma Joshi
It is ironical that the initial recognition of women'srights, which emerged during the freedom struggle and were expressed in our 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 women 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 worse part is that there is no revulsion, no challenge to biased projections, and no regrets from any part of the society. The whole gamut of dialogues, stories and picturisation have been taken as a way of our life. It has never been realised that if womanhood is not treated well by the mass media, it would spell a dangerous situation in times to come when the coming generation of the present children will have absolutely no respect for women.
It is a sad commentary that 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—are being highlighted to the maximum to cater to the carnal desires of the viewers or readers. The new serials, in particular, are full of scenes of sexual assault, rapes, obscene dialogues and songs. There is hardly any justification for such programmes except gaining cheap popularity and making easy buck.
Moreover, the film posters serve the purpose of not only advertising the film, but also showing off various masterly shot views of the heroine'sexposed bust and body. There is a kind of competition amongst films in picturing the next-to-nude heroine against a fully clad hero to make the posters a feast for the eyes. The ad world is bothered with merely the enormous money earned. No wonder, it is vulgarity and only vulgarity that is being used in an uncontrollable manner in films and other mass media items that have just scant or no regard for India'scultural heritage.
Indeed, for various historical, social, religious and cultural reasons, and despite many constitutional guarantees and legislative measures, women are still depicted as backward and meek. They are depicted as those meant to be ruled over by menfolk, if not in actual practice, certainly in India'selectronic media and films. This situation has been existing for the last several decades when the concept of women'semancipation was not even thought of. But the most poignant part of it is that ever since television came into being, most of the serials shown have, by and large, done no good to improve Indian women'simage. Rather, women have been shown as a typically harassed class, thrown out of their house if not willing to succumb to the dictates of their husband, and so on.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986, which prohibits sale, distribution and circulation of any books and pamphlets, depicting indecent portrayal of women, has not imposed strict censorship on cinema which has taken the lead in representing women in as many derogatory ways as possible. The definition of ‘indecent representation’ is such that it leaves enough scope for value judgement, bias and subjective assessment of indecency. It is for this reason that no action worth the name has ever been taken under this law, which has obviously been implemented more in its breach than in observance.
How good it would have been if films and TV serials could educate the masses regarding the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act, various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and such other similar laws that protect women'srights. No wonder, people, by and large, do not have even a correct appreciation of concepts like Hindutva, swadeshi, patriotism and what have you. If these had been depicted in a correct perspective in our films and mass media, then mass media and films would have done a great service to the Indian society at large. And surely, that would have served as a catalyst for triggering off a series of social reforms that are utterly needed in Indian society.
In fact, the worst part is that despite women taking part in so many activities and spheres and high positions, they are depicted as totally subordinated to husbands even if a husband has all the vices. The reality that lakhs and lakhs of Indian girls and women leading an honest virtuous life is just conspicuous by its absence in Indian films, perhaps because film-makers think that people do not like to watch the truth or the reality but they need to be given something that is extraordinary, sensational or unparalleled. In this anxiety, they jettison all good mores of citizenship of a country that is full of cultural ethos from the ancient times and of the highest order. Is it not, therefore, high time that we take some strict and sincere steps to remove such kinds of criminality against Indian womanhood?