I was left reeling, in a state of pure disgust and sadness, after watching “India’s Daughter”, a revealing documentary which retells the horrifying murder and gang rape of Joyti Singh. It has sent shockwaves across the world, and the brutality that the medical student faced sparked furious protests that called for justice, for safety of women, and for change. The documentary featured interviews, including that of Joyti’s parents, whose experience of loss and life-lasting pain were etched across their faces. They spoke of their bright and ambitious daughter, whose view that girls “can do anything” represented an aspiration for a new generation. One in which Indian women are given the opportunities they deserve, and the freedom to live their lives out of a man’s shadow.
Sadly, in present Indian society, women are treated as a lesser being compared to her male counterpart. The film pointed to the expectation that girls should never be given as much as or valued to the extent that boys are and the apparent ignorance of the abortion of female foetus’ in India. These cultural values are manifested in the views of three men in this film, who render this documentary almost unwatchable.
Mukesh, one of the convicted rapists, said that: “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” His shocking views are intertwined with a section of society who state that women should do, say and think only within the realms of a poisoned male agenda. He goes on to say that: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape.” He shows no remorse for his actions, spouting patriarchal and twisted views which continually blame Joyti for his and the other men’s actions. This view shines a light on current affairs in pockets of Indian culture, as rape is normalised and accepted. Women are blamed for the foul actions of men, a horrific manifesto that it is a “man’s right” to rape.
Shockingly, some people on social media hit back at BBC for broadcasting this documentary, stating “The BBC is doing what western media does best – glorifying and making a celebrity out of a psycho rapist,” (BBC Trending, 2014). A women is raped in India every 20 minutes. Every 20 minutes. Many of these rapes aren’t recorded, because women are too afraid to admit that they were abused. Astonishingly, people are taught that to be raped is shameful, as if a man’s inability to control his monstrous actions are a reflection on the women herself. This documentary did not marginalise a single case of sexual abuse. Rape is a problem in India, shown through the ferocious response of protesters. Showing this film is critical, in getting the message out there to everybody. It is imperative that the world knows that women are being mistreated, raped, abused, and suppressed. Sadly, people in India will never receive this knowledge, as the film is not being shown in the country. Indian authorities and social media users alike are calling for the BBC to take the documentary down, as the UK media powerhouse has received threats which claim it did not have consent to air the film. One twitter user, featured on BBC trending, hit back at the opposition, stating that: “Fact: A critical documentary can’t hurt India’s “image” remotely as much as a knee-jerk government ban on it can,”
The oppositions defence falls flat when you acknowledge that victim blaming was not just the prominence of the rapist, but also that of his defence lawyer’s. One man stated that he would douse his own daughter in petrol and set her alight if she “disgraced herself” through pre-marital acts. Another delight of a man casually stated that: “We have the best culture. In our culture there is no place for a woman.” These hideous admissions of grown men in regards to the evil and twisted murder of an innocent girl is a brutal example of the poisonous defence that has become commonplace in societies across the world, as rape continuous to be the only crime within which the victim becomes the accused.
The fact that Indian authorities are so opposed to the broadcasting of this quite possibly says more about the fact that rape is an issue in their society than the entity of the documentary does. Claims that this is an expectation to daily life in India became redundant to me as Joyti’s mother said: “Whenever there’s a crime, the girl is blamed, “she should not go out”. Women are told they shouldn’t be out late at night unless it is with a family member. The ancient notion that women belong in the kitchen with their mouth shut is still rife in a modern society. A society which also sees women subjected to beatings, acid attacks and a skewed population with unaccounted for and “missing women”.
The documentary shows how people of India are desperate to change this, it shows how angry people are and how they refuse to tolerate rape. One woman said: “This is our country too you can’t force yourself on us”. On the back of such a gut-wrenching portrayal of the oppression of women, I sincerely hope that the flame lit in honour of Joyti will continue to burn towards a brighter future within which women can feel safe in their own city, and the emerging push for equality stands tall.
Photo credit: Cosmopolitan.