HYDERABAD: “There isn’t enough awareness that cosplay is not consent,” a female cosplayer said on the second and final day of Comic-Con in the city, in a reference to the popular jargon in the cosplaying industry and recouning her experiences of being sexually harassed at the international event. The cosplay scene, costumed role-playing, is often in the wrong light due such instances.
Though Hyderabad’s 7th Comic Con, an annual celebration of all things pop culture, has been growing in size, several accounts of women and in some cases even men, show that sexual harassment can happen anywhere and anytime.
Aorin Shariyari, Hyderabad Comic Con’s cosplaying competition judge and India’s only professional cosplayer, said, “Harassment is a huge problem, you have no idea. Guys just try to touch you in one way or another.” Ironically, there are huge signs outlining the anti-harassment policy set up in Con space. A female cosplayer who has been participating in the Comic Cons for the last four years said, “Some people go overboard and get too close when they take pictures and many put their hands in inappropriate places.”
Another seasoned professional cosplayer said, “Men will come in for a picture, but tilt the phone so that, you know, the photograph focuses on the breasts.”
Again, the harassment is not always sexual in nature. Soumya Sharan, who was cosplaying as Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, said, “Many aren’t exactly polite when asking for pictures, and they damage our costumes or props”, said Sharan.
However, claiming ignorance of any harassment issues, Rajesh Naga, a volunteer who has been working with Hyderabad Comic Con for years said, “We have zero tolerance for harassment, and we have had no incidents here.”
At the end of the day, it is the cosplay community that provides the most support for female cosplayers. Charlotte Rodricks, a vet from Mumbai, said, “I feel safer within the cosplay community than outside.”