Women fighting India’s “rape culture” have used the internet in highly creative ways – but is posting rape videos onto YouTube a step too far?
“I watched the video and to my utter shock, it was an untampered video of rape.” This is how Sunitha Krishnan, founder of anti-sex trafficking charity Prajwala, describes watching the first WhatsApp rape video she discovered back in February.
“It was absolutely nauseating and I just couldn’t continue. The whole thing was a young girl who was being gang raped by five people.”
“What was shocking was that these people were aware of a camera, they were getting it all recorded. They were laughing and there was this huge sense of gloating.”
The video was shown to her by a man who attended one of her public talks, and whose own cousin had shared it.
Krishnan realised it was one of many such videos doing the rounds in a shocking and perverted subculture which seems to have many adherents in India.
The “scene” is driven by rapists themselves who share the videos – and, shockingly, don’t bother to hide their own faces – using messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
She made the decision to edit it, to blob out the faces of the victims, and upload it to YouTube.
“I decided that enough is enough,” she told BBC Trending’s Anne Marie Tomchak, for a radio report you can listen to here.
“The very next day… I captured the pictures of these young men from these videos and exposed it to the world.”
In the weeks that have followed, Krishnan has posted more such videos on social media – and been sent even more by those who support her aims.
It’s provocative and certainly gained attention. But is it the right way to combat what some have called India’s “rape culture”?
One concern is that showing the faces of men who appear to be committing a crime, before they have been subject to criminal procedures, could encourage vigilante violence.
BBC Trending asked Krishnan if she was in effect taking the law into her own hands, she defended the practice.
“The offender is using this medium to shame somebody and to show their impunity,” she said.
“Why should I be so sensitive to their needs?”
After posting videos online, Krishnan says she does hand them over to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. To date, she says, three people have been arrested.