Remember* India’s Daughter*, that documentary about the 30 days of protests following the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student on a bus in Delhi in 2012? Well, from what we’ve seen of it, we’re half worried about the fucked up attitudes of the bus driver (who raped and beat Jyoti) and half inspired. Leslee Udwin, the director of the documentary, said it shows how one horrific incident mobilised thousands of Indians, saying the protests were the country’s ‘Arab spring for gender equality’.
Well, it was meant to screen to 20 million students in India this weekend, to mark International Women’s Day. However, after protests against the film, it has been banned by the government.
As part of the documentary, there is an interview where Mukesh Singh blames Jyoti for her own rape and murder (she’d been out after dark – seriously, that was her crime according to these blokes), Indian media showed it too. Rajnath Singh, the home minister, declared in parliament the film would not be shown: ‘It was noticed the documentary film depicts the comments of the convict which are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women.’
‘How was permission given to interview a rapist? It is shocking. I will get this investigated.’
He wasn’t going against his people’s wishes; activists were protesting against the film, with one, Acharya Pandit Rajendra Trivedi, telling The Times of India: ‘This is a warning to the BBC that they should not air the Nirbhaya documentary.’ ‘This is an insult to women and we strongly condemn it, and I appeal to the Prime Minister and home minister to hang the guilty.’
Now, it’s so obvious that Leslee Udwin’s documentary is anti-rape and anti-inequality. However, it seems like people are incredibly worried that by interviewing a rapist, the filmmaker is endorsing his comments. Which is so utterly worrying, but then if things are as bad as she says they are ‘It’s not just about a few rotten apples, it’s the barrel itself that is rotten’ then maybe yes, some people would watch the documentary and think the rapist interviewed isn’t entirely twisted in his views.
But it’s not just India officials want to ban the film from. The parliamentary affairs minister, M Venkaiah Naidu said, reports The Guardian: ‘We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.’
That's a bit like saying ‘Oh dear this film is a bit cringe for us, let’s just not discuss rape’. Like, they’d rather sweep the story under the carpet than discuss it, because it embarrasses them.
Israeli-born Leslee has now made a plea to the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, ‘India should be embracing this film – not blocking it with a kneejerk hysteria without even seeing it. This was an opportunity for India to continue to show the world how much has changed since this heinous crime. Sadly … the banning of the film will see India isolated in the eyes of the world. It’s a counterproductive move.’
‘Whoever is behind this – please see the film and then come to a conclusion’
We’d hate to say we’re eager to watch the rapists’ comments again, but we’re tempted to watch the documentary just to defy the officials that are letting their female constituents down. In a statement released by Plan UK today, despite new, strict laws on rape being brought in following the Delhi bus attack: ‘women continue to face discrimination and violence’
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.