A bright, pleasant day calls for a little recreation and thanks to the spurt in growth of shopping malls with due credit to consumerism, one usually flocks to these centres to spend their day. In between window shopping and snacking, one ventures into a preferred brand’s store and after a few trial and errors, the deal is sealed. All happened quite smoothly without any hint of danger. But what happens when you realize there is a secret camera with its gaze fixed on you with an intent to capture you in the privacy of the trial room?
When Smriti Irani spotted a hidden camera pointing towards the changing room of a Fabindia store in Goa, it rendered the issue of voyeurism open to the public sphere. An interesting, although irrelevant to what I am focusing on, fact is how ‘swift’ the police was in making arrests when it came to a matter regarding our HRD Minister. After this was brought to light, the UP Police went on a hunt for these secret cameras in shopping complexes in an endeavour to build an image of a state working towards making UP safe for women. While this effort can be appreciated it cannot be ignored how this action is being guided on morality which is to do with a woman’s modesty. On the one hand, the Khap Panchayat’s continue to function unrestrained with the merciless killings of young couples who follow their will and on the other, there is an attempt to save ‘innocent’ women from becoming targets of ‘stranger’s’ twisted sense of pleasure. Am I the only one who has a problem with this sort of double standard? I hope not.
This news did not hit me as something new or astounding rather it came to me as expected. Given the disturbing times in which we are currently located, it did not have the potential to shock me out of my propriety. (Not that it is wrong in not being able to do that!) The revelation highlighted the absurdity that envelopes us. It raised several potent questions about the entire issue of voyeurism. Whether or not the footage captured was distributed or uploaded onto the internet is unsure. The salient point that emerges is the need to address voyeurism as a mental disorder that is not uncommon and more often than not, not with a malicious intent. It is something that the society needs to deal with as a collective with a positive outlook rather than simply condemning it as perverted notions of sexual or other thrill.
The other question that assumes poignancy is the victimization of the woman. When bonds of trust are broken thus, it breeds suspicion and resentment where not required. The attack on a woman’s modesty by recording the actions of the private is simply shameful yet not entirely rare. Although when it occurs at a more public level it is disgraceful but it should not relegate the everyday instances of stalking, etc. to less significance.
While there is nothing absolutely heinous about this news incident it is still equally important when addressing the question of women’s security. These clandestine acts of documenting publicly obscured actions are extremely potent with regard to one’s right to privacy. The question of the blurring of lines between the private and the public is also raised when we think about voyeurism. This one finding of a spy cam throws open a number of debates which play a significant role in defining and understanding the society we live in today where concerns and anxieties regarding the patriarchal structure seem to find a way to penetrate deep into almost every aspect of an individual’s life.Fabindia Hidden Camera Smriti Irani