The current depiction of and discourse around sexual violence and violence against women in Southasian continues to reinforce stigma, helplessness, shame and victim-blaming. This project addresses issues of nationality, caste and class in an attempt to investigate structural roots of sexual violence against all such communities of women across four countries – Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – through multi media presentations and research.
Visual depiction of violence against women is contextual and is also shaped by class, caste and ethnicity, with violence against women from marginal/excluded communities, women with disability, and migrant women gaining less visibility than violence against women from more privileged classes and castes. Sexual violence on women in various conflict zones in the Southasian region has become so routinized that it is only the horrific cases that attract media attention and public sympathy. Currently in the news media – print, online and electronic – images drawn by in-house illustrators as well as from online stock picture libraries include terrified and hapless women victims. Photographs, video, film, graphics and illustrations tend to show women as lacking in agency and as cowering in fright against dominant and powerful male perpetrators.
Challenging Visual Depiction of Women and Sexual Violence in Southasia is a project, funded by the Ford Foundation, that aims to challenge gender insensitive visual and aural depiction of sexual violence against women in Southasia. The project, in partnership with Film Southasia, will engage filmmakers, photographers, graphic artists, illustrators, researchers, journalists, and activists from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to produce five research papers and six innovative multi-media presentations to challenge and rethink the structural roots of violence against women. The Hri Institute will oversee the research component of the project and researchers will focus on the structural roots of violence against women (in media, non-profit institutions, and online discourse) and its depiction through fear-inducing imagery that prevents women from claiming their rightful place in the public sphere in the four countries. The research will help produce disruptive visual imagery that provokes new conversations to upend the patriarchal thinking that lies behind the current regressive depiction of sexual violence against women.