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The Art That Condemns Rape

Casting an eye over the growing number of productions and artistic campaigns that are inspired by Jyoti's story proves that the aftermath of the case is becoming more significant than ever.

As this past month sealed the fates of Delhi rape victim Jyoti Singh Pandey's rapists, many of us may have concluded that closure was brought to India's most internationally chronicled rape case. However, casting an eye over the growing number of productions and artistic campaigns that are inspired by Jyoti's story proves that the aftermath of the case is becoming more significant than ever.

Artists, comedians, writers and producers have exercised their creativity upon this particular rape case seeing an opportunity to challenge India's entrenched patriarchy. Some approaches are sensitive and profound, such as Nirbhaya, the critically acclaimed play that debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe festival just a few months ago. Through bringing testimony to the stage, director Yael Farber's aim is to shatter the silence that rape victims are often forced to uphold. 'The whole idea', she has stated, 'is the urge to speak.'

Performed by women who themselves are victims of assault, Farber's play is doused in ruthless realism that echoes the struggles of victims from around the world. The play may be framed by Jyoti's own story, but Nirbhaya does not only focus on India. Rather, it involves a personal account of a gang rape that also occurred within the Indian community in the States. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that attitudes that generate violence towards women in India are being maintained within Indian communities across the world. Having been highly commended by its British audience, Nirbhaya now has plans to grace stages in India, refuelling the dialogue in the Indian subcontinent.

A more controversial work is Abused Goddesses, a campaign launched by Indian Charity Save our Sisters. Artist Pranav Bhide has painted iconic Hindu deities with deep cuts and bruises on their faces, insinuating the hypocrisy that many Indians, arguably one of the most religious communities in the world, honour goddesses yet foster aggressive sexism. Perhaps this may remind us of the absurd comments made by the infamous 'religious' Hindu preacher Assaram Bapu last year, who argued that had Jyoti called her rapists 'bhaiya' (brother) while she was being attacked, she would have escaped the ordeal.

Abused Goddesses may have sparked a dispute amongst critics who argue it only further dehumanizes women by a likening them to divine figures, but it has succeeded in re-igniting discussion about the ways in which women are portrayed in the media and how this directly affects the way women are perceived and valued.

Just days after the rape generated global headlines many figures argued that it is women who primarily provoke sexual assault. The most recent media creation that has addressed the 'influences' of rape is a comedy sketch uploaded to YouTube entitled It's Your Fault. Acerbic and dark, the video features Indian actress Kalki Koechlin and TV Host Juhi Pande satirically tearing down popular claims regarding rape. From collaring the absurd Chow Mein accusation to ridiculing the opinion that clothing provokes rape, the short video targets an array of hostile judgments that publicly surfaced last year from within India. Although it is easy for us to laugh at the absurdity of the claims, writer Rachel Roberts has poignantly paralleled the concerns raised in the video with our very own rape culture, emphasising, just like Farber, that these attitudes are a lot closer to home than we'd like to believe.

These productions, amongst many others, are promising, but it only takes a look at the news to witness the surfacing of hundreds of rape cases in India per week. Two months ago the gang rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai made waves across India as it echoed Jyoti Singh's own story; this past weekend several alleged rape cases against minors have also been documented across India. In light of the sheer multitude of recent attacks, it is easy to conclude that the global outcry over Jyoti's case has been no deterrent. However, these videos, campaigns and productions are ensuring that rape is no longer synonymous with silence and that the debate following Jyoti Pandey's rape continues: an observation best expressed by novelist Nilanjana Roy, 'The rapes might not stop; but this conversation isn't stopping either.'

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