In­dian women don cow masks to show they are less safe than cat­tle

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

They are all pic­tures of women do­ing ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties: A woman on a street, a woman play­ing the piano in her home, a woman loung­ing in a boat, a woman at a ta­ble in a restau­rant. All un­re­mark­able, ex­cept that they are wear­ing a cow mask. The pho­to­graphs aim to high­light the grow­ing vi­o­lence against women in In­dia, while also draw­ing at­ten­tion to a wave of at­tacks on re­li­gious mi­nori­ties ac­cused of eat­ing beef or slaugh­ter­ing cows - con­sid­ered sa­cred by many Hin­dus.

“Peo­ple are get­ting lynched in this coun­try to pro­tect cows. But women’s safety is ne­glected and vi­o­lence against women is ris­ing,” pho­tog­ra­pher Su­ja­tro Ghosh said of his project. “If we can pro­tect cows, then why not women?” Vi­o­lence against women has been un­der the spot­light since a fa­tal gang-rape of a stu­dent on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 sparked na­tion­wide protests about en­trenched vi­o­lence against women and the fail­ure of au­thor­i­ties to pro­tect them.

In­dia has en­acted tougher jail sen­tences for rapists and promised to try those ac­cused through “fast-track” courts but rape, acid at­tacks and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence re­main com­mon. More than 327,390 crimes against women were reg­is­tered in In­dia in 2015, an in­crease of more than half since 2010. But ac­tivists say many crimes go un­re­ported be­cause women are afraid of reprisals from their at­tack­ers, or be­cause they are ashamed to re­port them.

There has also been a surge in vi­o­lence against peo­ple ac­cused of harm­ing cows. Ear­lier this month, a 16-year-old Mus­lim boy was stabbed to death on a train on sus­pi­cion of car­ry­ing beef, the lat­est vic­tim of an es­ti­mated 28 peo­ple killed in cow-re­lated vi­o­lence since 2010. Most were killed af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his Hindu na­tion­al­ist party won elec­tions three years ago. Modi last week broke his si­lence and con­demned the vi­o­lence by so-called cow pro­tec­tion groups, some of which have links to his party.

Ghosh, who be­gan by pho­tograph­ing his friends and fam­ily in Delhi and Kolkata wear­ing the cow mask, said he has been flooded with of­fers from women to pose for his project since he be­gan post­ing the pic­tures on so­cial me­dia. He has taken about 30 pho­to­graphs so far, and is rais­ing money via crowd­fund­ing to take the project across the coun­try. But he has also been at­tacked on so­cial me­dia for the project, which some peo­ple see as be­lit­tling the cow. “I hope peo­ple get the mes­sage and re­al­ize we need to pro­tect women with at least as much zeal as we pro­tect cows,” Ghosh said. — Reuters

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