These Indian YouTubers Reshape Attitudes on Rape Culture With Satire

All India Bakchod -- one of India's most popular groups of comedians -- use their acidic humor to call out powerful systems of oppression.

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Aug 22 2017, 8:30pm

Photo via Facebook

"Ladies, you think rape is a thing men do out of desire for control? Empowered by years of patriarchy? You've clearly been mislead. Rape? It's your fault. It all begins with what you wear. Scientific studies show that the leading cause of rape is women who wear skirts. Do you know why? Because men have eyes."

The authors: the All India Bakchod (also known as AIB), one of India's most popular groups of comedians, it is also the country's biggest YouTube channel with 2.5 million subscribers and more than 275 million views.

"India is going through a spate of sexual violence and assault. We were really angry about this and thought, 'What can we do?'. So we did this video saying 'It's Your Fault,'" Ashish Shakya, one of the founding comedians explained to VICE Impact at London's YouTube studios. "It was a way for us to break down every dumb hateful opinion that was and is thrown at women everyday, blaming them for sexual assault."

Their satirical videos challenge patriarchy, online harassment and examine some of the systemic issues that India faces today. "The video touched upon a universal issue that crossed borders," Shakya said. "It was also sad because a lot of people related to the content."

Today, AIB has been recognized for its work and named one of YouTube's Creators for Change.

Announced in September 2016, Creators for Change is a global initiative dedicated to amplifying and multiplying the internet's young YouTubers that are using their channels to front social change videos and using their voices to promote messages of tolerance and empathy.

Founded by Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi and Shakya, AIB now boasts more than 40 in-house writers and comedians.

"In India, women face a lot of harassment for speaking up online and sometimes, even for us just existing online" explained Manaswi Mohata to VICE Impact, who leads AIB's Creators for Change project.

VICE Impact caught up with the young comedian to discuss how AIB is using humor and videos to impact change.

VICE Impact: Online harassment risks silencing important voices. How have you challenged this issue?

Manaswi Mohata: There are two things that we believe in very strongly. One is freedom of speech and one is women's rights. When it comes to online harassment it is something that stifles your ability to speak out and it specifically limits women's voices, and it has become more relevant in recent times.

And it's not just video. Since having been named Creators for Change, you also host workshops at your offices to support young female Youtube creators?

Exactly, we've been inviting women already on YouTube to speak about their experiences of online-harassment to others who want to get on YouTube.

It showed that whatever you do, you'll get harassed, whether it's makeup tutorials and guys want to know your address, or more opinionated content and people want to kill you. You will be trolled, just in different ways.

It's to prepare them so that they can better deal with it?

Exactly.

YouTube is a very open platform. How is that different from the TV and film landscape in India?

Over the past several years the quality of TV has gone down. In the 90s there used to be a lot more progressive stuff on there, but now it's quite regressive. If you watch TV it reinforces a lot of existing patriarchal structures and a lot of stereotypes at several levels.

Films, on one level, offer more freedom than TV but not so much. We have, like elsewhere, this certification authority but in India it's dubbed the 'Censor Board'.They ask for a lot of cuts to be made in the films. They'll allow violence but remove nude scenes. It's a big problem a lot of the time. In the past few years, there have been so many films that have been cut so much that it doesn't make sense for the directors or the producers to release it anymore because it doesn't make sense anymore. But if they don't do those cuts then they are not allowed to release it.

But something like YouTube lets you do a lot.

Speaking of women's sexuality: Can you speak to us more about the making of the video 'A Woman's Besties' in which the character speaks to her clitoris, vagina and breasts ?

When that film was banned, we decided to make a YouTube video to challenge that ban. It basically features a woman having a conversation with her body parts, centered around a pregnancy scare. Her vagina is speaking out and her clitoris is the horny one.

If you look the video in isolation it doesn't seem very political but if you know the context, then you'll know that it is political. We got a great response. People were saying 'Thank god someone is talking about this' and there were a lot of 13 years old boys saying, 'What is a clitoris?'

READ MORE: YouTube Activists School Their Followers on Major Social Issues

You don't just tackle women's right issues. In fact, one of your videos on net-neutrality made a huge impact and even changed important legislation.

The government was passing a law, which was going to negatively impact net-neutrality. They were, however, holding a sort of referendum, but it was in the dark corner of some government website that no one ever visits.

So we made a video to educate people on what net-neutrality was and its importance and we got everyone to email and say that they did not support this move.

It led to an actual policy change. I thought that impact was really staggering. That's when you feel that what you are doing is making a difference in what's happening in the country.

And when you see you are making a difference, you quickly start looking at what else needs to change!

YouTube has partnered with VICE Impact to promote the Creators for Change program. This article was written independently by the VICE Impact editorial staff and was not paid for by YouTube.