India’s Daughter is a documentary film directed by Leslee Udwin and is part of the BBC‘s ongoing Storyville series. The film is based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus on her way home.
When the government discovered that the film includes interviews with one of the perpetrators along with his lawyers and family members, the film was banned in India. The bus driver, one of the six men convicted for the rape, makes statements in the documentary indicating ‘a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy’ because ‘a decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night’ – The other perpetrators state that she died because she fought back.
An excerpt that went viral ahead of the film’s Sunday screening shows one of the rapists expressing no remorse for the attack and saying the victim should not have fought back. Filmmaker Leslee Udwin says public outcry to the interview is unfounded. The rapist’s comments shed light on how women are viewed in a country where statistics indicate that there is one rape every 20 minutes.
The film was to be broadcast on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2015, in India on NDTV 24×7 and in UK on BBC Four. The Indian government blocked its broadcast in India by a court order on March 4, 2015. The BBC said it would comply with the order and did not broadcast the film in India. In the UK however, the BBC moved the transmission forward to March 4th, 2015 and it was shown on that date. The film was also uploaded on YouTube and soon went viral with various shares on social media.
The issue of whether to include the point-of-view of a convicted rapist in the documentary is not an issue exclusive to India. The internet has opened us up to being privy to experiences and stories from across the globe, in a way we haven’t seen before. It is important that we realize that though we may be consuming information from across the globe, we cannot generalize. We each come from our own experiences and histories. Our own cultures and societies affect the statements we make and stand by.
The last couple of weeks have been exceptionally difficult for me personally, as an Indian woman who consciously made the choice to an advocate for equality. My reaction to the documentary, India’s Daughter is personal. I very distinctly remember living through the aftermath of the rape of that young woman in Delhi. It was horrible and reinforced my opinion that it wasn’t safe to be a woman in India. One of the people being interviewed says that any woman being out after 7pm is “asking for it”.
That triggered a memory of me being brought into a police station for hosting an LGBT event that was completely legal, being held without reason for over four hours and being told the exact same thing by three police officers who refused to let me leave. The experiences of bisexuals and other LGBT people are very relevant when looking at this issue, especially considering hate crimes perpetrated against us. Are we “asking for it” when we come out and organize?
But I was very conflicted with the narrative of the documentary. It was uncomfortable to witness some of the generalizations it was dishing out. Rape culture, is not synonymous with Indian male mentality, nor is it exclusive to poverty or the uneducated masses. One of my feminist friends who still lives in India was deeply offended that the film maker had an outsider’s voice and even went further to make a ‘what can a white woman really know about the realities of my culture’ statement. While I agree with her, to an extent, unfortunately most women and some men know about the realities of rape and the attitudes toward it. Isn’t that enough? Do we have to make it a gender or a race issue too? Is it okay to be hurtful to each other about conflicting perceptions?
When reacting to things we cannot agree on, we should remember what it was like to be attacked for living a life or having an opinion that the popular masses thought was abhorrent, abnormal, a sin or improper. The choices we make to go against the crowd and to speak up about inequality and prejudices in our society might make us seem like fierce advocates of the underdog. But sometimes the risk is well worth it.