Last week one of the big issues that hit headlines was the BBC documentary by Leslee Udwin “India’s Daughter”- covering the rape case of Nirbhaya (means fearless- the name used during the case to protect the victim’s name) in December 2012. A 23 year old medical student was mercilessly gang raped and later died due to her injuries. Her story caught national headlines and led to widespread protests. The documentary “India’s Daughter” covering the rape created headlines, with Indian government banning it. There were some questions on whether legal channels were used to interview the rapists in jail.
I watched the documentary, and I wanted to share my views. Firstly, I have to admit it was hard to watch, and leaves you shaken and upset.
A lot of the furore was directed at the fact that the documentary was taken by BBC, a British media house, and the intention was to paint India in bad light. In my view, there is nothing anti-India in the documentary. There are multiple documentaries on social issues in every country to raise awareness, and this shouldn’t mean the intention was to paint India as a land of rapists. It is important for us as a country to take a look at our problems, and discuss how to solve them. I have seen articles quoting rape statistics around the world. The point though is the root cause in each case is different. We need to see the problems and watching it through someone else’s lens is still a necessary reality check.The documentary isn’t offering us a solution (that might be perceived as condescending) but just showing everyone’s story during that fateful night. By ignoring documentaries like this, we are trying to convince ourselves that these aren’t serious social issues that need to be solved.
Hearing the rapist was chilling at best- there was no shame or repentance- only indignation- he felt he was teaching the girl a lesson for being out late at night. His other points included saying his brother has done it many times, and usually the girls never tell anyone so they can get away with it. On the discussion for death penalty for rapists, he felt it would make it more dangerous for women, since next time guys would just kill the girl- that comment drove me positively mad. It begs the question-the interview suggests nothing will change after their time in prison so can we really have lax legal framework for such grave offenses? The jail psychologist blamed their upbringing, but I don’t buy it- that isn’t the only reason and we really need to dig deep to understand more about such offenses.
The views of the lawyers sound appalling (“Our culture is the best. In our culture there is no place for a woman”- that being the mildest of the views shared, the rest I really don’t want to write here). These views are a random view of one individual- time and again, during the protests, we heard everyone from politicians to religious pundits blame women for going out at night, wearing clothes that attract attention, and suggest women just take it. We need to hear this in a broader forum- it will trigger a wider discussion on how women are brought up- in the documentary, Sheila Dikshit pointed out that often boys see their sister get less milk, or are raised under different rules. Boys that grow up seeing their father not respect their mother will never grow to respecting women later in life- exposure to violence and abuse at home is lethal in shaping the young boy’s minds. If you don’t start with respecting women at home, it is a hard trait to pick up later.
I don’t think the documentary was pushing one view or another- there are questions on why the rapists’ views were broadcasted- but it was important to show that there are some savages that show no remorse so believing in their humanity and being lenient is a mistake. I think the documentary told everyone’s story without taking sides- they showed more about the victim including a clearer picture on her hopes and aspirations. The parent’s story tugged my heart strings- they went against their patriarchal family, and chose to invest in their daughter- their strength is a remarkable size.
Some things I didn’t like was the documentary was a tad dramatic in footage at times for viewership. Another problem is the perception that rape is a result of poor uneducated men- it is a simplistic generalization that I am not sure is accurate.
At the end of the day, this documentary is a harsh look at the story of Nirbhaya that brought the country together- we shouldn’t let Nirbhaya’s bravery go in vain- it is our moment to ensure that we build a safer India for women.