India's Daughter is an extremely difficult documentary film to sit through. It was heart-wrenching to hear the parents of the 23-year-old victim speak of her aspirations and how they themselves had pushed traditional boundaries to help her realise her dreams. They educated their daughter and gave her the same opportunities as her brother.
But minutes later, you hear the accused Mukesh Singh say that she deserved to be raped because "decent" girls don't go out at night. This is not an uncommon view. He used phrases that we have heard our politicians use so many times before this. Why is the entire country so surprised to hear this man blame the woman for rape, when our so-called educated politicians and religious leaders do the same? How are we expected to sleep peacefully at night if those we respect echo the ideas of rapists?
"While the documentary may offend us as Indians, I think it is important to feel the shame today. "
This documentary seems to have stoked some resentment because a British citizen made it. The film makes us uncomfortable, not only because it highlights the attitudes that condemn many women to the status of lesser individuals every day, but also because an outsider has shown us the mirror. If an Indian had made this documentary, it would be a member of the in-group pointing at a social evil in our society. While I realise that it's important to look at the content of the documentary and not the nationality of the director, I'd have preferred to listen to an Indian journalist shed light on this issue.
While the documentary may offend us as Indians, I think it is important to feel the shame today. We, as a society, seem to forget very easily. When this woman was raped and died battling for her life two years ago, we all took to the streets and spoke of a need for a change. Within a few days, we forgot that we needed to keep fighting for the cause because our politicians would inevitably turn a blind eye to it. Even after two years of this heinous crime being committed, Delhi is just as unsafe.
I think the title of the documentary can be problematic. The creators of the documentary call her "India's Daughter". They portray India to be proud of this woman who dared to dream of becoming a doctor and who continued to fight for her life even after being subjected to the most heinous crime. We also need to be ashamed of being a society that breeds men like Mukesh Singh. The words spoken by him are frightening, but listening to his defence lawyers justifying this act is beyond degrading. We should be ashamed in calling ourselves the superpowers of tomorrow, if we have educated people openly speak like our rapists. These men claim that they will burn their sisters and daughters if they cross social codes. The defence lawyers in this case claim that we have the best culture -- a culture where there is no place for a woman. If we want to ban something, let's ban men like this, not the documentary film.
The government banning this film proves how weak our state is. By going to the courts, the Indian government is turning a blind eye to this woman and the many women who have been subjected to this kind of discrimination. It reflects the government's lack of desire to work toward lasting changes.
"If there is anything that we should consider banning, it should be the live telecast of our parliamentarians debating rape in a regressive, patriarchal language."
We take pride in being a democracy, but hide behind a ban when a documentary really highlights a condemnable social plague that we have just accepted to be a part of our lives. The ministry should be condemned for the ban and this decision of the government should be discussed across the globe. Even after we heard Mukesh Singh speak on camera shamelessly blaming the woman for rape, why can't we capitally punish men like him? If he can speak like this from behind bars, imagine the things he'd say if he were free. Let's remind ourselves that the juvenile in this case will be released this December. It's been two years, but nothing has changed.
The appeal has been pending in the Supreme Court for a year. There has been no hearing since August last year. Why does it take our government more than two years to take real action against the perpetrators? We need to stop shying away from our shortcomings as a society. The first step in doing this is the government lifting the ban on the movie.
We live in a society where hypocrisy is rampant. Hindus worship goddesses, yet women and girls are raped and killed both inside the womb and as they walk the streets. Yet, the government seems to care more about the holy cows on our street, and not the women of our country.
Instead of focusing on India's Daughter as sensationalising the condition of women in India, let's realise that it is a reflection of the rape culture in our country. Instead of thinking of this as a time when we're vulnerable to criticism by the West, let's use this documentary to force our politicians to take action. If there is anything that we should consider banning, it should be the live telecast of our parliamentarians debating rape in a regressive, patriarchal language.