A lurking threat for women in India

Documentary, India

Datt16

Men watch women dance in the Dassera festival. Datturnagar, Mumbai, India 2012

This image was taken on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai in, essentially, a leprosy colony, albeit one with more of a positive story than most. Though this photograph is full of people who’ve either had leprosy or (more likely) are the children of those who have had leprosy, it has less to do with leprosy and more to do with the issue of how men treat women.

The four men standing underneath the multicoloured snack-packs appear to be stealthily watching the young women dance in the street – as part of the festival of Dassera. There’s something rather sinister about it. There are the obvious comparisons to the ‘dirty old men’ that stand against the bar in a London nightclubs, wishing they could have the candy that catches their eye… but sometimes it goes further. As I was photographing it made me think of that terrible case of a young female student, gang-raped on a bus. Suddenly they are less of loners watching and wishing, than lions watching to pick out the weakest of the herd. Perhaps that analogy’s a bit extreme. Perhaps not.

I’ve almost certainly represented these four men unfairly on a personal level – it is after all, a split second in time and photographs do lie. But then I don’t see it as an image of fact, but more an image of truth (if that makes any sense?). It’s representative of a greater problem – a lurking threat to society, or more specifically a lurking threat to women. And I still shiver when I look at it.