Activists want censor board to add ‘violence against women’ category to film certification

Activists want censor board to add ‘violence against women’ category to film certification
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The Indian Central Board of Film Certification has three main categories for classifying movies: Universal (open to all), UA (minors need to be accompanied by adults) and A (only for Adults). But supporters of a campaign called Frame Her Right believe that this isn’t adequate. They are pressing for a fourth category to be added: Violence Against Women.

The group hopes to meet censor board chairperson next week to speak to him about their onlinepetition about their demand.

The petition claims:

“It is established that violence on screen and violence in real life are connected. Despite this, there is no rating, no certification, nothing to warn parents or children about violence against women in our cinema. As a dedicated movie-goer, I stand for free and creative expression, but I do also believe every parent and child has a right to make an informed choice before they view scenes that are violent or degrading to women. You are in a position to help them make that informed choice. By instituting a Violence Against Women rating for films produced or screened in India, irrespective of language, you will have taken a giant and positive step in the interests of cinema audiences across the country.”

Ankita Khare, the campaign manager of Frame Her Right, says that the activists don’t aim to curb the freedom of directors, but “want the labelling on the bottle to be proper”.

“There is a lot of violence against women on the screen, especially in regional cinema, and the censor board has a huge influence as well a responsibility,” she said. “We just want people to know what violence against women is.”

However, the well-meaning campaign has the potential of opening several cans of worms. Are there clear links between screen and real violence? The jury is out, but Khare insists that there are connections, and cites studies by such bodies as UNESCO and the NCERT.

Who is supposed to give the added certification – the same examining officers who fret and fume over the duration of a kiss or the presence of an animal or a bird in a corner of the frame? The question of what constitutes violence is deeply subjective. In the name of advocating respect towards women in films, the CBFC has already instituted a crackdown on profanity that does not always look at the context in which swear words are used. Wouldn’t such a campaign only lead to greater censorship rather than awareness?

“Censoring kissing scenes falls under moral policing, but women in India face far bigger problems,” Khare said. “We are talking to the CBFC chairperson and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that women are portrayed in a better light.”