2015 Summit

Sunitha Krishnan talks about her controversial campaign to “Shame the Rapist” online

“Enough is enough. We cannot tolerate this anymore”


Sunita Krishnan is the gutsy anti-trafficking activist who collected footage of Indian men raping women and then uploaded it on the Internet for the world to see. Krishnan blurred the women’s faces to protect their identities: viewers of the grainy, low-quality Whatsapp videos confronted images of men smiling and gloating as they committed the acts. Krishnan shared the sickening evidence so that the public would focus on the criminals, not the victims.

“The way in which these men were flaunting this inspired me to start the ‘Shame the Rapist Campaign,’” she said on stage Thursday during the second day of the 2015 Women in the World Summit. She recalled how she got a call from a young man who claimed to have two videos, one of an actual gang rape of a girl by six men. Not only did this nauseate and enrage her, it drove her to action, especially when she witnessed the comfort and ease with which the rapists exhibited the videos. With a collection of over 9,000 videos that spread all across the world in her possession, she made a conscious decision to stir change and turn the tables. “The impunity of the act was shocking. Enough is enough. We cannot tolerate this anymore. They need to be shamed,” she said.

Ironically, Krishnan began her campaign at a moment when India was in the limelight due the controversial ban of the documentary India’s Daughter, which focused on the horrific gang rape of a medical student on a bus in Delhi. “The ministry and government [were] already in debate about sexual violence and I went to the Ministry of Home Affairs and was met with silence,” she explained. She had to turn to the Supreme Court, and there, too, she was told that the videos she had in hand would need to be further investigated.

The circulated videos on the web led to approximately 40 perpetrators being identified and subsequently arrested, but for Krishnan, this small victory signified that there is a lot more work to be done. One of the videos has been in circulation since 2010 and features men from privileged backgrounds, while other new examples have surfaced. All of this worries her: “At one end there is a voyeuristic tendency. Is it a spiritual or ethical vacuum that we are going through?”

She added that since the campaign started she has started receiving threats on Facebook, and that her vehicle has already been vandalized. “I get sexually explicit threatening calls from all over the country,” she said. Krishnan urged the community as a whole to get organized in collective action against sexual assault. “Why are we silent? Why do we sit and expect someone else to ring the bell?” she asked. While she has helped rehabilitate and rescue 12,000 women and children from rape, trauma and prostitution, she also emphasized the importance of online communities and measures by companies like Facebook and YouTube to combine forces and help curb such activity.

“What is the benefit of service providers? They need to be held accountable for such horrible videos. They have the model duty to report the video to the authorities,” she said, while adding that all those endorsing these videos are equally to blame. Her biggest fear is that people will forget about it and move on.


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