‘Like running on one leg’

The regulation of sexual rights through the preventative policing of sexual violence in Delhi

Authored by: Natasha Marhia

The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138931176
eBook ISBN: 9781315679891
Adobe ISBN: 9781317395553


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In a dusty square in a densely populated resettlement colony in the north-western outskirts of Delhi, a large crowd has gathered inquisitively around a makeshift stage framed with giant banners advertising Delhi Police’s Parivartan campaign for the safety of women in Delhi. The actors in mime artists’ hyperbolic make-up, glistening in the oppressive heat of Delhi’s late afternoon summer sun, have secured a captive audience in the children weaving their way nimbly to the front. The performance, Hadsa, is a 10-minute educative pantomime about rape. The audience knows that the suspicious neighbour who befriends the father of the teenage girl is a Bad Man, but why can’t the parents see this patent truth? Viewers voice their disapproval and dread as the girls’ parents are obliviously lured from the house so that the Bad Man can make his move on the helpless daughter. The sexual attack takes place off-stage. When the parents return, they mime their horror at their daughter’s torn clothes and blood-stained legs and face. In a dramatic gesture accompanied by a drum roll, she raises her arm and publicly points the finger at her attacker. ‘What should we do with him?’ the show’s narrator asks the excitable crowd. ‘Arrest him!’, ‘Throw him in jail!’, ‘Beat him up!’, they heckle. Two women police officers in khaki Delhi Police uniforms stride purposefully onto the stage. These are not actors, their faces are clean of clown like make-up. They are beat constables from Delhi Police’s Parivartan Cell. They demonstratively handcuff the Bad Man and drag him offstage, miming a faux struggle, amid an uproarious frenzy of triumphant whoops, cheers and laughter from the crowd.

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