In this industrial northern state, you can buy footage of a woman being raped for the price of a cheap meal.
Al Jazeera found several videos that appeared to depict rape for sale across the state. They cost from Rs 20 to Rs 200 (30 cents to $3) and are transmitted to a customer’s mobile phone in a matter of seconds.
The faces of the women are visible in these films. Their voices are clear. The attacks on them are brutal.
In Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh, an area mostly known for the manufacturing of sporting goods, local contacts indicated that the movie files, marketed as “rape videos”, were available in nearby villages.
With shopkeepers cautious about selling them to non-locals, one local man in the village of Incholi – roughly 15km from Meerut – agreed to buy one and show it to Al Jazeera.
Shahnawaz, who declined to use his real name, said that the videos are not generally made with the intention of being sold on the open market. Still, he’s heard a lot about them.
“They make it to blackmail the victims [of rape] … so that they don’t go and file a complaint in the nearest police station,” Shawnawaz explained.
Sometimes, he said, the videos are stolen from the perpetrator’s phone when he takes his device to a shop for repairs. The stolen footage is them sold to anyone who asks for it.
Most shopkeepers are careful to sell the videos only to locals, and generally deny any knowledge of them. Some, however, agreed to share explicit videos, including rape clips, with Al Jazeera.
One of them admitted that he had many such “local films”, as the videos are euphemistically referred to. There are watchwords in the trade – akin to a secret handshake – that let the sellers know that a customer seeks rape videos – as opposed to other pornography, which the kiosks also sell.
Once a rape video reaches one dealer, it spreads like wildfire, through applications such as WhatsApp, to other parts of the country. In fact, “WhatsApp sex videos” is one term used for rape videos in this part of the country.
In the village of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh, one man who readily admitted that he frequently purchases pornography – particularly videos of rape – told Al Jazeera that he buys them from other nearby villages.
The videos he buys at shops and kiosks come mainly from other customers who sell the footage to the shopkeepers, he explained. He has a collection of these films on his laptop and described the rape footage as “pornography”.
He watches the videos, he said, because they give him “peace of mind”.