After a slew of media reports on gang rapes and other sex crimes against women in the public space, there has been a good amount of TV debate and newspaper write ups and social media activity, on the issue of inadequacy of safety in public spaces, for women in India. Police, being the state agency responsible for public safety, has been the focus of such debates and chatter, if not directly, then certainly indirectly.
I recently read a 1983 research paper, ‘Effects of Mass Media Violence on US Homicides’ by David P Phillips, University of California, which quantified the rise in violent crimes, like homicides in the US, immediately following all popular and widely telecast boxing fights between 1973 and 1978. The study showed a 12.46% rise above average, in homicides within 3 days of the telecast championship fights and a 6% increase 4 days later. If merely watching championship fights on TV can significantly affect the volume of criminal violence taking place in society, then the sexual attitudes towards women and the violence portrayed in our films and music and advertisements, must be having a significant impact on the viewers’ minds-enough to create an unsafe environment for women in homes as well as public places. We, as a nation, are not, however, debating this larger issue which could be triggering the spate of sexual violence against women, and instead only looking for the band-aid of better policing.
Though the sexual attitudes and violence projected in past and present Indian cinema and commercials, would be significantly influencing the viewers’ behavior and attitudes, by the normal psychological impact of ‘imitation’, the related governance issues like ‘creative freedom’ are not easy to tackle in public policy. I wonder then, what solution can emerge for this problem-of attitude towards women- in our existing social environment. Aamir Khan’s very popular TV program ‘Satyamev Jayate’, has taken advantage of the same powerful impact of media, to create a positive social mindset for more equality for women. Similarly, an Indian made you-tube video, ‘Its your fault’ which is a satire on attitudes on rape, has gone viral on the internet. I think we need to focus on many many more such media projections to change social attitudes towards women. It will have a more permanent impact than focusing only on the deterrent but short term effect of post facto police actions.