BBC Four’s documentary India’s Daughter gives an insight into the attitudes towards violence and gender inequality in India which is shocking, fascinating and compelling in many ways.
The programme tells the story of Jyoti Singh, a 23 year old physiotherapy intern who was gang raped by six men on a bus in Delhi when she was walking back home with a friend after watching a film. The friend she was with was beaten by the men, then taken to the back of the bus where they brutally raped and abused her. Jyoti’s injuries were so severe that she died in hospital from them thirteen days later.
Leslee Udwin, a rape survivor herself, skilfully makes this documentary to highlight the impact that this tragedy has had on the exposure and punishment of these crimes in India, and to show the world how much still need to be done to change what seems to be an inherent misogynistic culture in the country.
The views held by those who are interviewed can be seen as archaic, controversial or just pure wrong by those viewing from Western liberal societies, like myself. Mukesh Singh, one of the men convicted of raping Jyoti, says when interviewed that he thinks “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” Even his defence lawyer, an educated man, says “We have the best culture. In our culture there is no place for a woman.”
It seems that these views are not unusual in India, though. The documentary starts with the statistic that a woman is raped every twenty minutes in India. Those interviewed talk about how rape is seen as punishment for a woman being out too late at night, or for wearing certain clothes that no ‘good’ woman would wear. It is shocking to see that the men talking about this are being completely serious in their opinions, and that feminism as a movement has had such a limited impact on attitudes and norms in India.
Jyoti had a different view from that of many people in the country she grew up in. Her parents and one of her close friends tell the story of how she wanted to become a doctor. She had just finished her degree and was working as an intern when the tragedy happened, making her death evermore poignant as she was so close to her dream. Her death was not in vain, though.
Scenes from protests against sexism, which began the day after the rape took place and went on for months afterwards, were shown in the programme. The masses of people that took to the streets express how many of the population of India do feel that it is time for change. However, this is not the same for everyone.
The Indian authorities banned the showing of the documentary in their country altogether and aimed, though unsuccessfully, at getting it banned worldwide. It has been rumoured that Udwin, the maker of the film, had to fly out of India when it was released due to fears that she could be arrested.
Despite this resistance from India, the documentary went viral when it was put on YouTube, and 300,000 people tuned in to watch it as it aired on the BBC last week. It is due to be shown in Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and Canada.
Overall, it is a very well-made documentary which tells the story from many different perspectives and looks at what the culture is in India regarding gender, violence and rights, and is definitely worth watching.