India’s Daughter Banned in India

For those of you who remember the brutal gang rape in India on a bus that caused the death of the victim, Jyoti singh pandey, in 2012 there has been a development in its ongoing legacy. As you may know, the six men who were guilty of the rape were convicted – one died while in jail – police say he hung himself but the family suspects murders; one was a juvenile and given the maximum sentence of three years and is serving his time in a reform facility – he will be released in 2016; the four other rapists were found guilty of rape and murder and were sentenced to death by hanging. They appealed the finding, moving their case up to the Delhi High Court, which upheld the guilty conviction. However, all four of the men have appealed this decision in 2013 and the Delhi High Court has yet to rule on this final appeal.

The events on that fatal evening caused an uproar in Delhi. Citizens marched in protest and faced water cannons, tear gas, and police brutality in their demands that India respect its women. This caused a fast track in the legal system against Jyoti’s rapists and murderers and has begun change in India’s legal system around the laws that protect women. It has also begun a more public discussion about women’s rights in India, one that isn’t necessarily desired by those in power and clashes with traditional values.

Director-Producer Leslee Udwin has created and released a documentary about Jyoti’s brutal rape and beating and the events that occurred after, India’s Daughter. So why is this important? India has banned it from its airwaves and asks the rest of the world to follow suit. The response from the world? The BBC’s original transmission date for the film was moved from Sunday, March 8 (International Women’s Day) to Wednesday, March 4 in response to the request. The film will air in Canada on the CBC this Sunday, March 8. It will also be aired in more than 15 countries around the world. Leslee Udwin has fled India as she was concerned for her personal safety.

The feeling from those in power is that this is a film created to defame India. The police asked for it to be banned because of concerns over riots and creating a feeling of tension among the population. Art is a powerful thing, we forget that. The holding of a mirror up to a culture or a country can offer a pretty horrific reflection. In this case India’s Daughter is zeroing on a very specific instance of the rape culture in India and it isn’t pretty. The banning of the film seems counter-intuitive however. Why ban a film that could help to cause change for the good?

The brutal rape and beating of Jyoti has caused a breaking of the taboo in talking about rape and harassment in India. It’s a conversation about female honour. It’s intrinsically linked to a woman’s sexual identity and how certain choices she makes clash with traditional values. This is best illustrated through an interview with one of Jyoti’s rapists, who showed no remorse for his actions and had this to offer:

“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”

“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.”

“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

“The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”


Originally published by The New York Times on March 4, 2015. Written by Ellen Barry.


NEW DELHI — Irate over the release of a British-made documentary film on a 2012 gang rape in Delhi, India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, told Parliament on Wednesday that the Indian government would “not allow any organization to leverage such an incident and use it for commercial purpose.”

The documentary, “India’s Daughter,” features an interview with Mukesh Singh, now on death row for his role in the crime, who tried to justify the brutal attack by saying “a decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night.” Excerpts from the interview were released on Tuesday as part of an advance publicity campaign.

Things moved quickly after that. After a condemnation from the home minister, the Delhi police moved for a restraining order, and a court issued a stay banning broadcast in India of the film, which was aired Wednesday night in Britain by the BBC. A news release from the Delhi police said Mukesh Singh “has made malicious, derogatory, offensive, insulting remarks against women, causing harassment and disrepute.” The excerpts, the statement continued, “are highly offensive and have already created a situation of tension and fear amongst women in our society.”

A new documentary that includes an interview with one of the men who raped and brutalized a woman aboard a private bus in New Delhi in 2012 has reignited passions about the case.

The restraining order also bans websites from uploading or posting the interview.

Sexual violence is a highly charged topic in India, and though the vast majority here had not yet seen the film on Wednesday, it was nonetheless the subject of stormy debate among activists and public intellectuals.

The author Nilanjana S. Roy warned of the “very real risk of turning a rapist into the Twitter celebrity of the day.” Kavita Krishnan, of the leftist All-India Progressive Women’s Association, saw patriarchal undertones in the advance foreign coverage for the film, describing “a sense of India as a place of ignorance and brutality toward women, that inspires both shock and pity, but also call for a rap on the knuckles from the ‘civilized world’ for its ‘brutal attitude.’ ”

Others defended the film. Shobhaa De, a popular Mumbai-based columnist, wrote that the film “must be made compulsory viewing in our schools, colleges and government offices.” And writing on the news website FirstPost, Sandip Roy, a journalist and novelist, questioned why people were so outraged by the convict’s statements, considering that, as he put it, “Singh’s observations would not sound that out of place in the mouths of many law-abiding Indians.”

In Parliament, many lawmakers endorsed the home minister’s view, and some wondered whether it might be possible to ban the film outside India’s borders.

Anu Aga, a member of the upper house, was one of the few members who spoke out in defense of the film.

“In glorifying India, saying we are perfect, we are not confronting the issues that need to be confronted,” she said. “Any time there is a rape, blame is put on the woman — that she was indecently dressed, she provoked the men. It is not just men in prisons’ views. It is the view of many men in India.”

Leslee Udwin, a British filmmaker who interviewed one of the men convicted of raping and killing a woman in a brutal 2012 gang attack on a New Delhi bus, said Mukesh Singh blamed the victim. Video by AP on Publish DateMarch 3, 2015. Photo by Associated Press.

She added, “Let’s be aware of it, and let’s not pretend that all is well.”

The filmmaker, Leslee Udwin, said she was “deeply saddened” by the ban, which she described as the “flouting of a basic right of freedom of speech.”

“India should be embracing this film, not blocking it with a knee-jerk hysteria without even seeing it,” she wrote in a statement on the website of NDTV, a news channel.

The film will make its United States premiere on Monday night at Baruch College in New York, at an event hosted by celebrities, including Meryl Streep, and sponsored by two advocacy organizations that work with women and girls, Plan International and Vital Voices.

The 2012 rape and subsequent trial transfixed India for most of a year, prompting passionate discussions about women’s safety in this rapidly urbanizing country.

Many Indian women are afraid to travel the streets alone after dark, and street harassment has long been dismissed indulgently as “eve teasing.” Although the per capita rate of rapes reported to the police in India is below that of many developed nations, some experts say that much sexual violence goes unreported.

The woman attacked in 2012, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, had boarded a private bus with a male companion, not realizing that the bus was off duty and the six men aboard had been driving the streets in search of a victim. After knocking her friend unconscious, they took her to the back of the bus and raped her, then damaged her internal organs with an iron rod. She died two weeks later of her injuries.

One defendant hanged himself in his prison cell; another, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was sentenced to the maximum punishment of three years in a detention center. When the remaining four men were sentenced to death by hanging, crowds outside the courthouse erupted in celebration.

Correction: March 4, 2015
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated Sandip Roy’s profession. He is a journalist and novelist, not a film director.