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This Experiment Tried To Test India's Rape Problem. The Results Might Startle You.

Categories: South Asia, India, Citizen Media, Film, Human Rights, Ideas, Law, Media & Journalism, Protest, Women & Gender

A girl's voice desperately cries for help from within a white van in India, where she is presumably being raped, but many walk past nonchalantly, ignoring her pleas. A few people try to intervene.

Thankfully, no one is actually in danger. The jarring scene is choreographed, part of a viral social experiment video [1] posted on June 4, 2014 by YesNoMaybe [2], a local entertainment group from India, to draw attention to the “rape culture” plaguing India. ”We hear about rapes every day in India, which leads to widespread protest. Thousands of people attend candlelight marches,” the video description reads. “But only a handful of people act when it really matters.”

The video was posted not long after the recent brutal gang-rape and hanging [3] of two young girls in a rural village in India. Within 24 hours of being posted, YesNoMaybe’s Facebook page [4] reported that it had reached over 150,000 views. By June 12, 2014 [5], it had a million (and currently has 1.65 million). After a few days, the video had received coverage from various Western media outlets such as Time magazine [6] and The Telegraph [7].

Many were appalled at the lack of concern shown by some of the passersby in the video when screams could clearly be heard. The video sparked widespread outrage at the way India handles the issue of rape, and fueled even more frustration among those fighting to remedy the problem. 

Some, such as Urmi Agrawal [8], wrote on the Facebook page’s comment section that the video made an important point:

this movie shud be shown to our so called youth who belive in candle march and talking on social media….but when the strom hit the ground, they do nothing!

Others, however, focused their attention towards the coverage of the video by major news outlets. Ruchika Tulshyan, a blogger for Forbes Magazine, took issue with Time's headline, “Are Indians As Nonchalant About Rape as This Video Suggests?”:

Ankush Boravke, a freelance photographer, took a darker view:

Some people in the YouTube comments section criticized the people behind the video. Tirthankar Dubey [16], an Indian expat living in London, praised the video’s intentions, but pointed out that the video made it seem as if the filmmakers didn't open the van to prove to those concerned that there was no woman being raped.

After numerous other comments similar to Dubey’s surfaced on the video’s YouTube page, YesNoMaybe eventually issued an official response via YouTube comment [17]:

“Alright here's something you all should know -

1. We talked to all the heroes for a good 5 minutes.

2. We opened the door and showed them what's inside.

3. All of them (including the first guy appreciated what we were doing)

4. On being asked if they would do the same again if needed – ‘Definitely, why not?’”

Nonetheless, some people began to question the publicity that this video gained for India and if the creators were actually damaging India’s reputation rather than raising awareness.

A biker from Mumbai with the YouTube username “Oggy F [18]” began to question what the video really accomplished:

To be honest, these “social experiments” only damage the already horrible image India has globally. If you're so concerned about what our society thinks, spend your time conducting workshops and creating awareness (among women and men). Videos like these give the world an opportunity to say India is the rape capital of the world.

Rape is certainly a serious issue in India, but do videos like this one help solve the problem? What do you think?