Did Jim Sarbh make a rape joke at Cannes 2018? Actor says 'my comments were taken out of context'

Karishma Upadhyay

May,18 2018 11:57:26 IST

Update: Jim Sarbh's team has reached out for a clarification on his comments. The actor said:

"Sexual violence is a serious issue and I treat it as such. It is unfortunate that my comments were taken out of context. I do not now nor have I ever condoned any form of sexual violence.”

His representatives further revealed that the actor was enacting parts of a play, which is "a dark satire", in his private space when this video was recorded without his permission, and his comments were taken out of context.

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In a short clip that’s surfaced from a party on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival, Padmaavat actor Jim Sarbh is heard delivering what sounds like the punch-line of a joke. “I’d rather be raped by 12 prostitutes than touch alcohol and the Punjabi says ‘Me too, I didn’t know that was an option’,” he said. Kangana Ranaut, who was standing next to Jim, cracked up.

If I understood Jim’s joke correctly, being raped is preferable to drinking alcohol. Let that sink in for a moment.

The horrors of Kathua and Unnao are still fresh in our minds. According to the latest data available, in 2016, India recorded 106 rapes a day and four out of every ten victims were minors. Countless people – men, women, adults and children – suffer from the trauma of sexual violence. And, yet these celebrities think it’s okay to joke and laugh about rape.

One would have thought that Kangana would know better than to applaud a joke this regressive. After all, just two years ago after Salman’s rape remark during the promotions of Sultan, the actress had said, “We all agree that it is a horrible thing to say; it is something which is extremely insensitive”. Kangana, who has identified herself as a feminist on many occasions in the past, should have known better.

Jim Sarbh and Kangana Ranaut.

When you laugh about someone being raped, it trivialises the trauma caused by the crime and desensitises people to the severity of sexual violence. The literal use of the word ‘rape’ is meant to convey the horror of the act of sexual violence. But when we thoughtlessly start using it as a gag line in a joke, it chips away at its significance. Language is ever evolving and how we use words and phrases in our everyday lives shapes it. If we continue to make jokes about rape and laugh about it, that’s what rape will become – a joke.

I recently came across a headline in a film magazine from the mid-70s – “If rape is inevitable lie back and enjoy it”. This was a phrase that I heard, and probably, even used often in my teenage years. That was before I fully understood the unsettling evil and uncomfortable reality the word represents.

Rape is a dark word. Let’s not water it down to describe a brutal gym session or a bad day at work or with a joke.

Being flippant about rape is part of a much larger rape culture that’s prevalent in our society today. The first step we need to take towards becoming a more evolved society is to stop trivialising and normalising the violence.

Of course, there are more than just jokes that promote rape culture. Don’t listen to songs that brag about rape; or watch movies and tv shows that use rape as an unnecessary plot point; or don’t buy products that objectify women in their ads and while you are at it – definitely don’t joke about rape.

Unfortunately, Bollywood personalities continue to be idols that the youth of this country looks up to and follows. We depend on them to lead the conversation of change. It’s important that Jim and Kangana understand how isolating and silencing sexual violence is.

Making light of that trauma, even at a party in a country far away, is not the message that they want to send out to their fans.

Updated Date: May 18, 2018 11:58 AM