The World’s daughter as I would name her; but more commonly known as India’s daughter has shocked the world with her brutal death aired in the documentary India’s Daughter on March 8th to coincide with International Women’s Day. Produced by Leslee Udwin, the documentary unveils the devastating story behind the brutal gang rape and death of Jyoti, a 23-year-old medical student at the back of a moving private bus in Delhi. The tragedy which occurred in December 2012 caused an outrage in India leading to riots and protests, demanding for changes in the accepted attitudes and treatment towards women.
Jyoti went to the cinema to watch Life of Pi on December 16th with her male friend. After they got on the bus to return home she was raped and her male companion was beaten before they were both thrown off the bus. Jyoti underwent several operations but unfortunately later passed away on December 29th.
India’s Daughter was aired nationally to reveal Jyoti’s case but also to raise awareness of rape, assault and mistreatment of women globally. However attention was drawn back to India as they banned the documentary from airing in India. More shockingly, the Indian television station NDTV broadcasted a blank screen for the allotted time that the documentary was meant to be shown on television. Arguably the actions of the Indian government could be seen to be limiting the rights of their people and the voices of those who were outraged by the traumatic event. In an email discussed on Fox News, the government expressed concerns about people breaching the “law and order” of their country if it was to be aired in India, the same way civil unrest in 2012 led to unprecedented numbers of women and men taking to the streets of India in protest. But what is to say that by removing the document people’s access to gaining knowledge about the events will be limited? Fears of civil unrest seem irrational since it takes an extreme case like Jyoti’s brutal rape for individuals and countries to take action; and it takes such extreme actions to generate any radical implementation from members who are in power. Banning a documentary in the 21st Century seems almost ignorant since there are multiple means of finding something out and action is being made globally regardless of its ban in India. The documentary was simply rocking the boat of a cause which has been fought against for years – gender equality.
The act of violence was shocking for many but the comments made by the defence lawyer A. P. Singh and one of the convicted rapists, Mukesh Singh, caused uproar because of the blatant disregard for women. A. P. Singh stated in the documentary how “in our culture, there’s no place for a woman” but if a female in his family participated in any form of pre-martial activity he would take them to the farmhouse and in front of her family “put petrol on her and set her alight”. Mukesh held a similar disregard for women, believing “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy… a decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night”.
We must take a moment to note how some cultures allow men to have multiple wives or even affairs but the woman is contained to the domestic sphere of their homes; we must question where these double standard formed and as to whether changing an engrained cultural ideology which confines women to menial roles with voices like the defence lawyer shunning those women to the corner, one begins to question how change must be implemented. Of course it is worth noting that such views reflect the extreme side of cultural gender inequality in India and other countries, however it is indicative of how the subject of rape is handled in many countries around the world where personal and culturalised views conflict and begin to affect legal justice unfairly.
Faced with a national uproar, India pushed the case forward and sentenced 4 of the accused men to death whilst one of the rapists committed suicide in his cell. To the disappointment of many, the 17-year-old juvenile accused of committing the rape has been sentenced to just three years in prison. Whilst he is only 17 years of age, is it not fair to state that if he is old enough to commit the crime then he is old enough to pay the right price?
It is important for viewers of the documentary to note that it was not a direct attack on India, however their actions against raising awareness do perhaps show a less united front on the matter and tarnish their image as part of the global community. Udwin states in the Fox News interview the members of the country “are more interested in hiding their shame than saving their women”. Nonetheless at least 6 other countries went with the motion of the broadcast by airing India’s Daughter to show their support with countries joining hands across the world to address the issue of the treatment of women.
The joining of hands globally is a fundamental step for change as women face oppressive patriarchal ideologies in multiple forms such as inequality with wages, how they are expected to dress and gender stereotypes even in the most influential countries (like yours truly). NCRB data stated that there has been an increase in reported rapes in India from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013, resulting in 93 women being raped every day in India (India Times). Additionally 85,000 women are raped on average in England Wales every year (Rape Crisis, 2013). Documentaries like Udwin’s raise awareness of such statistics and help create change. Education in sexual consent and gender equality requires emphasising in communities to help the long-lasting battle of equal treatment of women. In the 21st Century where we are surrounded by resources, severe cases like brutal rapes shouldn’t have to happen to initiate the drive for change.