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Rape videos sold in India
Rape videos sold in India

In India’s Uttar Pradesh (whose open-air market is shown here), videos of real-life rapes are being sold on the black market. Photo by Carol Mitchell.

In parts of India — with a secret code and someone to vouch for you — you can buy rape videos for as little as $2.

by Awanthi Vardaraj

When you think of the Black Market, you might think of the illegal sale of weapons, smuggled goods, alcohol, cigarettes or even exotic pets. But in India – particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh — you can add rape videos to that list.

It has emerged that there is a wide teeming network of shops and individuals who sell rape videos to customers on the sly, under the noses of the police and local authorities. Shopkeepers typically sell these videos to people who come armed with a reference from a trusted source, and they’re tight-lipped about where the videos come from. The transactions are quick and often over the counter, swiftly transmitted to phones or pen drives, and they cost as little as $2 to $3.

“Porn is passe,” a shopkeeper is quoted as saying at Agra’s market, while one of his colleagues converses with two teenagers in a nearby shop, telling them they may even know the victim in the “latest, hottest” video. “These real life crimes are the rage.”

The videos are real; they often feature the faces of the victims clearly, their voices begging their perpetrators for mercy. In one video, the woman pleads with her attackers to stop filming her assault.

Nobody knows exactly how or why this trend started, but as with almost anything, there is a steady supply and a steady demand. The videos are called “local videos,” which is slang for rape videos, and the sales of these videos happen in shops that also deal with other goods and services. Local police and government authorities have professed ignorance at the existence of these videos, and the market for these videos continues to flourish. But that is hardly surprising in India; for decades, Indian women have had to contend with a sluggish, underfunded, antediluvian and insensitive criminal justice system which has consistently failed to support survivors of sexual assault, and to prosecute the perpetrators and deliver justice.

Related: Skirt Warning Won’t Prevent India Rapes

India’s rape culture is notorious and prevalent, and although the country’s rape statistics shot to the attention of the world after the brutal gang rape of a woman in a bus in December 2012, India has had a rape crisis for a long time. The problem is that it’s steadily getting worse, as these statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau show. Ninety-three women are raped on a daily basis, and that’s only taking reported cases into consideration. Some figures put it higher, with a rape allegedly happening in India every 20 minutes. Indian police estimate that only four out of every ten rapes are reported.

Indian society is famously conservative, with women being shamed by their families and societies for having had the temerity to get raped. When a woman is raped it brings disgrace to her entire family, which is dishonored as a result of her rape. It is estimated that this is how this black market video trend could have started — as a means to blackmail women and stop them from going to the police.

Women who brave the wrath of their families and society face other hurdles; Indian police are often unsympathetic, blaming women for their own rapes, as this investigation by Abhishek Bhalla and G. Vishnu uncovered. Indian politicians have also blamed clothing and drinking, and tried to ban jeans and short skirts in apparently serious efforts to stop rape. In the aftermath of the 2012 rape, it was suggested that the woman who was raped and tortured should have begged her rapists to stop attacking her by referring to them as her brothers. These are all serious suggestions by real politicians in India.

There also appears to be very little to no victim support; there are no programs for counseling or therapy, and there is absolutely no system in place wherein the victim is taken seriously; the Indian justice system also fails victims because it is so inadequate. Cases are often shuffled around because there aren’t enough lawyers or judges, and they can take years to settle. Besides this, witnesses and victims are often intimidated and threatened, so cases are dropped or witnesses refuse to testify. Bribery and corruption are also rife in India.

A plan to construct 660 rape crisis centers across India was recently shelved, and the number has been slashed to 32. For a country of the size of India with such a chronic rape crisis, this is hardly enough. But for now, tragically, it will have to do.

Meanwhile there are almost no signs that Indian society is tackling the root of the problem where it lies; if the sales of rape videos flourish because there is a market for them, then we can argue that rape flourishes because boys and men are not held accountable for their actions, and are not taught that they are the ones who are responsible for rape. In this fiercely misogynistic patriarchy, the times, they are not a-changin’.


Awanthi Vardaraj lives and writes in the port city of Chennai, in the south of India, where she runs her own small artisanal bakery, and keeps a garden full of jasmine plants and herbs she still cannot name. She is a columnist for The Indian Express, and a regular contributor to Wear Your Voice Mag; her words have appeared in a number of discerning online publications.

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