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When a cow is worth more than a woman

Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh captured lady friends and female acquaintances wearing a cow mask to raise awareness against gender-based violence
23 year-old Sujatro Ghosh captures women wearing cow masks in differente public spaces, the photographer is convinced that making the problem visible will contribute to begin its erradication - Photo: Courtesy of Sujatro Ghosh
Catalina Díaz
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In India, 36,735 women were raped only in 2014. The Indian government estimates that a woman is raped every 15 minutes in their country.

In Mexico, an average of seven femicides per day was registered in 2013 that amounted to 2,502 femicides in that year, according to the UN-Mexico report, “Mexico. Challenges for an Inclusive Development.”

These are only two examples of a global issue that needs to be denounced, assures 23-year-old photographer Sujatro Gosh, who took pictures of women wearing cow masks in several public spaces to criticize, through art, that a cow is worth more than a woman in India.

“Confronting rapists face to face will never be an option, because assaults take place by groups where a single person cannot be left to defend himself, so I thought that if I were to protest against all this it would have to be through art”, says Ghosh.

Born and raised in Calcutta, photographer Sujatro Ghosh assures that abuse against women is a global issue that needs to be made visible in order to begin its eradication.

Ghosh was in New York in late May when the project took shape in his mind. He bought a cow mask in a Manhattan store and took a flight back to India. A week later he was taking pictures of lady friends and female acquaintances wearing the mask.

This constituted a “statement” against the Indian society: while the most conservative groups protect a sacred animal, they look away to gang-rape or femicides.

Do you do this to make a safer country and a safer world for girls and women?
Absolutely, says Ghosh via a video conference for EL UNIVERSAL.

Mexico might not have an animal that receives larger protection than women, but the gender-based problems faced in Mexico are not that different to those faced in India.

The study, “The other invisible victims”, from the Executive Committee for the Attention of Victims (CEAV), revealed that 90% of victims of sexual violence in Mexico are women, while 60% of the assaults are perpetrated by acquaintances or relatives of the victims.

“Looking at the whole picture, you realize that this is not only a problem in my country. While the veneration to cows only takes place in India, my goal is to make women rights and their protection visible; this is a global issue that I am trying to underline.”, says the artist.

He adds, “We all know within us, that this is an issue present in all societies. My project is focused in India, thus the use of cow masks, but I am ready to take it to the rest of the world, as this is a problem that calls for a solution. It is a really ambitious project for sure, but it at least raises some sort of awareness and education on the issue.”

The artist wishes that his efforts become a global protest and he has thus commenced a crowdfunding project that he hopes will allow him to take pictures in different locations throughout India.

His social media network displays nine of the 20 pictures he has taken so far. All of his pictures show a woman wearing a cow mask whether in public spaces or in private.
The protest goes beyond, as the women not only wear a mask, but also model in attitudes which are traditionally interpreted as “masculine” by the Indian society.

“The photography industry is dominated by men, and without mentioning a country in particular, they (in general) do not expect to see such images in a photography, this is how it works if you come to think about it and that is precisely the kind of stereotype I am trying to break down.”, explains Gosh.

He recognizes that we all have feminine influences in our lives and he admits that he had a non-judgemental and unrestricted upbringing in one of India’s most liberal areas, Calcutta, which delayed his realization of the issue. However, he knew that violence against women was a largely widespread practice in his country as he grew older.

“One waits for someone else to stand for the cause and with the years I understood that if someone was going to start this it had to be me”, he asserts. This is where his first protest began as he publicly declared to be a feminist in a country where the penalty for killing a cow goes from three years in prison to life sentence, depending on the region, and at the same time, the place where a thousand acid attacks are registered per year, according to numbers from the Human Rights Law Network, an Indian non-governmental organization.

“I have publicly declared that I am a feminist because this is a way of standing for a cause you believe in and that is particularly necessary for a country where people fail to understand so, this the reason why I openly declare myself a feminist. Some might see this as superficial but it is not. It is more alarming that you have to declare yourself a feminist given the problem we are dealing with”, Ghosh assures.

In Mexico, a study financed by the Executive Committee for the Attention of Victims (CEAV) revealed that between 2010 and 2015 over 3 million of sexual violence offenses were registered, which represent 600,000 offenses per year and 1,345 cases per day.

In India, only last Sunday June 2, a 35-year-old woman who had been gang raped and was subjected to several acid attacks on behalf of her rapists had to be admitted to hospital once her assailants acid attacked her for the fifth time in the women hostel, where she remained in police custody together with her children, in Lucknow, capital city of Uttar Pradesh province.

In the face of these facts, Sujatro Ghosh took advantage of the social media to publish his pictures in Instagram.

He adds, “I never thought this would be made available to the world, nor I pretended to be the kind of person looking for that exposure. My intention was clear from the beginning, I wanted to make public the values I believe in: to defend the rights of women and their protection, first in my country and later, throughout the world.”



Cuando una vaca vale más que una mujer

El fotógrafo Sujatro Ghosh retrató a amigas y conocidas usando máscaras de vaca para crear conciencia ante la violencia de género
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