Indian photographer's project asks why cows are more valued than women

PHOTO: Indian photographer Sujatro Ghoshs photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India.Sujarto Ghosh
Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh's photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India. Ghosh said he had photographed 25 to 30 women in New Delhi and Calcutta, India, this month.

An Indian photographer is using images of women wearing a fake cow mask as they go about their daily routines to raise awareness about the country's treatment of women. Sujatro Ghosh, 23, said his project is designed to raise a controversial question in the Hindu-majority country: does India value cattle more than women?

Ghosh's work includes photographs of women playing piano, talking on the phone, and posing on city streets all while wearing a latex cow mask. The New Delhi-based photographer told ABC News that the pictures were a form of protest against Indians who view protecting cows as more important than protecting women from harassment and abuse.

“[If] someone can protect cows in such a way, why can’t we protect women?" Ghosh said. "Why can’t we protect women who are experiencing sexual assault and getting molested?”

Sujatro Ghosh
PHOTO: Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh's photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India.

Recently, self-proclaimed Hindu cow protection groups in India have attacked people they have viewed -- rightly or wrongly -- as slaughtering cows for beef, including members of the country's Muslim minority. There have been five such attacks against Muslims in the past three months. On Wednesday, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the violence against Muslims while holding signs that read "Not in my name," the Associated Press reported.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke out against the attacks on Thursday, saying "no person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands," the AP reported.

Hindus do not worship cows, but they are considered sacred animals in the faith due to their gentle nature and symbol of earth and the sustenance of life.

Ghosh said he chose to contrast the treatment of cows with the treatment of women to highlight the issue of sexual harassment. In 2015, the last year for which there are government statistics, more than 34,000 rapes were reported in India. That same year, there was a conviction rate of just 21.7 percent in cases of crimes against women, according to government figures.

Sujatro Ghosh
PHOTO: Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh's photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India.

Ghosh said he has photographed 25 to 30 women in New Delhi and his hometown of Kolkata since he started the project two weeks ago. He said he is currently raising funds to help expand the series to the rest of the country.

But Ghosh's work has prompted negative responses as well as positive ones.

Questioning the strong sentiments behind protecting cows in India has led to death threats over social media for Ghosh, his family and his subjects, the photographer said.

Sujatro Ghosh
PHOTO: Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh's photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India.

But he said others -- particularly women's rights groups -- have supported him.

“I would call myself a feminist,” Ghosh said. “This is a cause I really believe in.”

Sujatro Ghosh
PHOTO: Indian photographer Sujatro Ghosh's photography project depicts women wearing a replica of a cow head, intending to raise the question of whether cows are viewed as more valuable than women in India.

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