October 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I first came across the advertisements produced by Mumbai-based firm, Taproot India, I was impressed by the startling and shocking nature of these images and the apparent strength in them; taking images of the empowered and worshipped Hindu Goddesses, Luxshmi, Saraswati, Parvati etc., and portraying them with signs of domestic violence is something I had never considered.
In doing this, the ad agency, on behalf of ‘Save our Sisters’, has tried to illustrate the extent to which gender-based violence has become the norm within Indian society. The posters suggest that it will not take going much further for society to arrive at the reality of these images; “Pray we never see this day”. By suggesting these widely worshipped goddesses have been subjected to domestic abuse of these worshiped goddesses, the audience is forced to reflect on the morality of gender-based violence.
However, it seems almost ironic that the inequality seen in todays India is down to cultural practises and the misinterpretations of Hinduism through its society. As I discussed in my article on the Role of Women in Vedic India, the apparent ignorance of the difference between cultural and religious practises combined with the external influences of foreign invaders nucleated this inequality within the religion or culture which has permeated through time to today. Violence towards women is deemed normal, accepted by society and the woman is recognised to always be to blame. The sad benchmark in the Indian psyche on gender issues needs a radical change and the ad seems to be a step in that direction.
However with the positive aspects of this ad campaign being evident, many negatives can also be drawn. Many of these are highlighted in a great article by Sayantani DasGupta who draws on the tone of these posters as well as their true functionality and purpose.
The campaign takes the symbols of intelligence, power and strength and reduces them to these helpless, abused figures in need of saving: ‘Save our Sisters’. This implies the oppression of Indian women and whilst gender-based violence is a reality in India, it is not exclusively restricted to this one country, or even to the East.
Whilst the campaign does raise awareness of important issues, it has rightly been pointed out that there is no clear action to take. It is true that people need to reflect on the state of society and to question cultural norms, however, more is required. Action is required.
India is on the verge of social reform: movements are occurring, society questions its own practises and people are demanding change. Cultural transformation will take time in any population, particularly one as big as India’s; it is unrealistic to expect dramatic results over a period of months or even years. However, there is hope. The young people of today’s India are growing up in a self-aware and culturally inquisitive environment. I believe it will be this generation that will employ and enforce the reforms that we discuss and protest about today.