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The Ban on “India’s Daughter” Brings India’s Sons into Focus

India marked the one-year anniversary in 2013 of the brutal rape of a young university student, which plunged India into a period of self-reflection and mourning whilst thousands took to the streets of Delhi in protest against gender-based violence.

India marked the one-year anniversary in 2013 of the brutal rape of a young university student, which plunged India into a period of self-reflection and mourning whilst thousands took to the streets of Delhi in protest against gender-based violence.

Debate has erupted once again in India surrounding the issue of rape in the country, this time spurred by British director Leslee Udwin's documentary ‘India's Daughter‘ about the brutal gang rape and murder of aspiring physiotherapist Jyoti Singh Pandey in 2012 in Delhi. 

The film shows one of the convicted rapists, Mukesh Singh, saying women are more responsible for rape than men, and that women shouldn't fight back when being raped. Two defense lawyers who also appear in the documentary spew similarly sexist and violent thoughts about women in India.

Before it was even shown, the film faced accusations of showing India in a bad light, that it was made in poor taste or that it treated the issue insensitively. Some even called it fake

The right-wing Bharatheeya Janata Party government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stepped in and procured a court order banning its release in India by citing “objectionable content”. Originally, the BBC had scheduled the documentary to air on International Women's Day, March 8, but it moved forward the release to March 4 and published the film in its entirety on YouTube. The Indian government then requested that YouTube block access to the film within the country, and the site complied. 

The documentary mainly focuses on Mukesh Singh, who is behind bars, sentenced to be hanged for his role in Jyoti Singh Pandey's rape on a moving bus on December 16, 2012. She succumbed to her injures two weeks later. It also relies on interviews with her parents and the defense lawyers.

Criticism aside, questions were raised across social media as to why the government would ban the documentary. 

To protest the ban, popular news channel NDTV, which was supposed to air the film, ran a black screen with the film's title during the hour-long slot on March 8 when it was scheduled to air.  

Explaining why the channel decided not to broadcast an alternative show, editorial director Sonia Singh said in a tweet:

Crimes against women are certainly a problem in India. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, every 20 minutes, a woman is raped in India. Since 2010, reported crimes against women, including rape, have increased by 7.1 percent. 

At the same time, the film isn't perfect. GV contributor Annalisa Merilli pointed out some of the basic flaws in the narrative of the documentary on news website Quartz:

The documentary lacks the strength to point to the roots of the problem. Take the title, India’s Daughter. Why? Isn’t that a quintessentially patriarchal label to give Jyoti Singh? She wasn’t India’s daughter. She was India’s promising medicine student. She was Delhi’s fierce citizen, who would stop a policeman from beating up the kid who just stole her purse. She was the fearless woman who stood up against the men who would then kill her—because she would not take being bullied, she would not just do as she were told.

Kunjila Mascillamani, a film student at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata, wrote on her blog that while the film is not perfect, that's no reason for it to be banned:

Nothing artistic about it. Moreover it is somewhat like Slumdog Millionaire in that it looks at India as a third world nation sinking in poverty and anti-social activities. A country which needs reformation. Glee at an opportunity to criticize a former colony is rather evident. India of slums, youth dropping out of school to earn a living, women who only seek protection from husbands- the sketch is just perfect.

[…]

I am not India's daughter. I don't think Jyoti Singh was either. India is in fact Mukesh Singh. I cannot adhere to anything which originates there. Neither as a woman nor as a human being. In this festival colours [I] am with a ‘foreign’ film. A mediocre one which posed threat to state, a film which made me part of a conspiracy. Jyoti Singh, today, [I] miss you.

Taking a look at the conviction rate of rape, India stands tall with an ‘impressive’ 24.2 percent (2012) compared to the UK's 7 percent and Sweden's 10 percent. Then why does rape continue to be a problem?

Gender inequality thrives in India, according to Anjali Joshi in the Huffington Post: “This is no pathogenic case of victim-blaming. This mentality has been bred in Indian culture as a result of generations of gender inequality. These rapists were not “rotten apples in the barrel”; rather, their way of thinking is not far from the cultural norm in India.”

Questions need to be asked at all levels of Indian society about how to rid India of this gender inequality that has gripped its very roots. Where to begin? Popular actress Twinkle Khanna tweeted in a few words on what needs to be done as a society:

  • Deepak Kumar

    So why these fucking white christian SCUms are raping girls in the western world.fuck off from our country we are not your colony now you scumbags!!!!

  • OHDisqusNSA666100

    It isn’t making India look bad, they’re executing the rapist. It shows women in India are dignified. Based on what clips of it I found up there, I dont’ see what the issue is, I don’t think the Indian prime minister has watched the video.

    • Kano Malhotra

      It might show you this picture, but internationally, the damage has already been done, An Indian student was rejected by a German university professor for being a citizen of a country that has ”Rape Culture” . No matter what people think, documentaries like these do carve an image and this documentary portrays that all Indian Men belonging to a poor background are potential rapist.

  • Rdzkz

    Seems as though Indian men cannot handle it. Had an emigre from India tell me that’ men are really not created equally and that is the way it is’. I was not in a position to reply to him: you idiot go back there where you got that idea from, if you did not understand the LEGALLY we are all created equal. Culture of continual put-down.

  • Ananth Srivastav

    Do we need a change in attitudes in India? Sure we do! But do
    not make the case that most men find rape acceptable, I have lived and worked
    in rural India for years and in its biggest cities and know that this is false.
    We do need a change in how we view marriage and dating, before we have men and
    women who understand each other and are comfortable with each other.

    Do I think that the world is out to malign India- no I do not. But the rest of the
    world seeks to sweep its dirt under the carpet. The statistics quoted by the
    film that a woman is raped every 22 min in India is juxtaposed to a Western
    figure when reduced is a rape every 9 minutes in Europe.

  • Ananth Srivastav

    Udwin says she has not seen a similar reaction anywhere else in
    the world to rape where a spontaneous outburst happened across the country. But
    film does not focus how all of society thousands upon thousands of men came out
    on the street to protest. Most of these men and women have grown up in
    traditional homes with conservative ideas about family and the role of women- but
    that did not mean they were not sickened by evil or repulsed by forcible sex.

    To equate patriarchal societies and conservative thinking with an attitude that
    violence towards women is acceptable is like saying that women with a career do
    not care about family life, or having PG rated films encourage bad social
    behavior. The vast majority of conservative traditional and uneducated men even
    in the most rural of locations are first human beings then fathers, brothers
    and sons who are caring towards women and children

  • Ananth Srivastav

    I do not think the film said anything untrue. But its focus is
    on “exposing” a supposedly majority Indian male worldview. It pulls
    in statements from the criminals, their lawyers who themselves appear to be
    fringe elements- it was pretty difficult to find lawyers to argue on their
    behalf to start with, forensic psychiatrists explaining the criminal mind, a
    person who runs a protective home for juveniles- who is duty bound to explain
    the background of street children and a ex-chief minister who is desperate to
    redeem herself of past statements about the incident. The friend and tutor of
    the girl himself would undergone psychological trauma. These statements are
    then extrapolated and generalized to “most’ males of Indian origin.

    Serial rapes and violent attacks on women are happening everyday in the best of
    cities, we do not see these criminals getting prime time on TV. Do we see
    terrorists and their doctrinaires and murderers and rapists in Europe and the
    US getting ‘pulpit’ time on Western TV? Did the Norwegian who killed 60
    teenagers get a documentary where he gets to espouse his “thoughts”?
    Nazism, racism, religious bigotry, xenophobia is plenty beneath the surface of
    European society- that does not mean that we put the bigots and their
    defendants on TV and beam their opinions across the planet.

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