Overview: The brutal details of the 2012 Delhi bus gang rape focused international attention on India’s rampant rape issue. Inept law enforcement, the social stigma associated with rape, and a patriarchal social structure have allowed sexual assaults to plague Indian women. Delhi’s police department has vowed to hire more female officers and set up a help desk but these measures are hardly a solution. Reports of rape in Delhi doubled in 2013 and, as bad as it is in Delhi, the Indian countryside is worse. Instead of investigating rape cases, rural police officers ignore victims and their families. Sampat Pal has united rural women into the Gulabi Gang, or Pink Gang, to combat the injustice of sexual assault. VICE heads to rural India to hang out with this revolutionary gang.
From 1949 to 1989, the Soviet Union detonated more than 450 nuclear bombs on the people of Kazakhstan in an area known as the Semipalatinsk Test Site. Hundreds of thousands of Kazakh people suffered from the blasts and, therefore, not only were they exposed to radiation, but it became part of their DNA. More recently, a Kazakh doctor has been trying to implement a mandatory genetic passport, something that would allow the Kazakh people to know if their genes were damaged by the radiation in order to prevent the births of a new generation of deformed children. VICE goes to Kazakhstan to learn more about this controversial initiative.
Expectations: Nothing against the Pink Gang, but this segment will hold my interest first because a new correspondent presents the piece. I admit I pay attention to the style and delivery of each report just as much as I do the subject matter. The subject here is a group of women who empower themselves against the physical violence that rages against Indian women. I am sure the severity of the issue will be discussed and the passion for equality will be felt and maybe, a hopeful piece about some good being accomplished in the world will be witnessed by those who see this segment.
I fear the other segment of the half hour will play out to be a bit grimmer. The preview seems to indicate glimpses into a nursery to witness children affected by radiation poisoning since birth. Those consequences of nuclear testing cannot be pretty. How raw and rough will this piece be? Shane Smith, in the segment setup, warns viewers that it is graphic and disturbing. This warning is the first time a disclaimer has been stated on VICE. I am surmising that the deformities faced by people of Kazakhstan are going to test me. What drives me to watch most, however, is the explanation of the “genetic passport.” I’m ready!
Gut Reactions: First up is The Pink Club Rebellion by correspondent Gelareh Kiazand.
Let me begin by acknowledging this reporter’s first time submission to VICE on HBO. Gelareh Kiazand (pictured) is a filmmaker and photographer mainly focusing on issues and stories in the Middle East. She has lived in Iran for six years working as a still photographer, and was the only woman at that time, shooting video for both fiction stories and feature documentaries. Her work later took her to Afghanistan, where she worked as a creative director and director/shooter for a documentary TV series. Her interest has always lied in the hidden masked human stories that reflect the current affairs of the Middle East. She has had a few photography exhibitions in Iran and Dubai, and she has won awards for her videography work. Gelareh was born in Iran and finished her studies in London and Toronto, graduating with a degree in Media Arts. Her experience and knowledge about the Middle East should prove a great asset to VICE, though this particular report is from Asia.
What I have noticed about her from this report is her minimal appearance onscreen. Some reports have correspondents walking and talking their way through their narrative while Gelareh leans more towards letting the imagery be the focal point and she’ll then provide voice-over. Speaking of her voice it has quite a pleasant tone and out of all the reporters has the nicest quality even when she may be talking about something violent.
As for her subject matter in her debut report it was a bit misleading at first. Really, to me the issue here was not about the Gulabi Gang itself. It was more about the reasoning beyond the needed existence of such a band of women. I thought that the rape incident cited was a point used to launch into talking about the formation of the gang, but that 2012 crime and the protestation of violence against women and girls in India it caused was the main issue at hand here. The whole terrible mindset of the male population and the governmental and policing officials is a disgrace. And Miss Kiazand set up and documented those disgraced actions quite effectively.
As for the Pink Gang and Sampat Pal’s leadership of them, it is a very bold step to stand up to the adversity, shame/blame and cultural clash that they are up against. Around the world more and more oppressed peoples are standing up for themselves. Once you get a glimpse of the young rape victim in this piece you too will hope that these ladies garbed in pink can turn the tide.
Genetic Passport is reported by correspondent Thomas Morton.
I realize that many viewers might take this report differently than I did. There will be opportunity to say how you felt about it in the Comments below. For me, I ended up not being as shocked as Shane Smith warned I might be. I was not shocked by the obvious images shown, but I also wasn’t over other reasons as well. I was not surprised by Soviet nuclear testing; nor was surprised at how they conducted them or of their lack of concern for the consequences of such testing. Nor was I shocked by the results decades later. Mr. Morton cited that 450 tests were conducted in the region and showed us that the irradiated landscape to this day still sends the Geiger Counter pinging. It is the arrogance of people and lust for superiority they crave that is going to crumble our society.
Again, the consequences of their actions may be disturbing to your senses, but more disturbing to me is the ill regard people of power hold for those beneath them. We see that mentality even to this day. The deformed children and pickled fetuses were saddening surely but I couldn’t say they were disturbing. Out of respect for any sensitivity I will refrain from detailing the images of the deformed living in homes, orphanages and hospitals and the specimens also shown. VICE felt it important to address that these sufferers are out there and that though scientific study is a necessary must it should not be to the detriment of unsuspecting citizenry.
As to the whole “genetic passport” issue raised in this piece? That part of the segment seemed to get lost for me. I was thinking more of the disregard of the government that brought on these medical ills more so than worrying about the genetic continuation of deformities passed on. Granted the cycle for the sake of all should stop, but don’t the families involved have enough sensibilities not to bring suffering children into the world. It is a crime that these people have been robbed of the right to have healthy children but let them make the choices that affect their lives going forward. Again, this issue is open to your comments.
In Conclusion: The reports from VICE are all open-ended pieces with no clear resolutions that often leave more questions than answers. Episode 6 is a perfect illustration of just that fact. As long as there are oppressed peoples, whether it be women treated as lower class or future generations harmed by a nuclear legacy, there will be strife and grief. By standing up for themselves will the Pink Gang make a difference for women’s rights? Will the cycle of deformities end for the Polygon? Only time will tell. For this episode of VICE check out HBOGo and tune in to HBO Friday nights at 11:00pm for more hard hitting glimpses at our world. Now be prepared to be debriefed.
Frustratingly, Youtube is inconsistent with their videos for this show so the following hails from HBO.com itself. First is Gelareh Kiazand’s debrief. Out of the gate her answer to the first question about the silent police she faced was what I was wondering about myself. Also you don’t feel much of a sense of hope often attached to a VICE piece and Kiazand does offer some of that here.
Now I think anyone who saw the second segment of this episode is eager to know what Thomas Morton felt about being among the deformed children, but he doesn’t sensationalize that and good for him! He does weigh in on the whole genetic passport issue though.
HBOWatch has just scratched the surface of the issues contained in this episode. Our attempt is not to spell it all out for you but to pique your interest to watch the episode for yourself and ponder the questions it raises about the state of our world. And you can do that week after week because there is plenty of VICE content out there. We leave you with a sneak peek at next week’s installment. Peace.