Tag Archives: Delhi Gang Rape

India’s Daughters: Why We Shouldn’t Be Silent

India’s Daughters & Sons have grown up in a nation where sexual violence and rape is an everyday reality, like in other countries. Here, however, the violence is so pervasive that it had jaded us.  But in 2012, the Delhi Gang Rape, where a 23-year-old medical student was gang raped, tortured and killed in a public bus, proved a collective tipping point. The nation was moved from indifference and quiet frustration towards impassioned street protests and action. The horror sparked a questioning of a system where this was allowed to happen. The protesting citizens demanded not only justice for the victim Jyoti Singh and other women who had suffered similarly but also security, protection, rights and dignity for all women.

Instead of connecting with the people’s sentiments, the Congress Government reacted to the people’s anger and voices with water canons and tear gas. It tried to subdue the people and dilute their movement; the chief minister came on television and made desperate attempts to downplay the protests. But the government had misjudged, and how. Their draconian actions only added fuel to the protests, which raged on. For this naiveté, the Congress would pay a heavy price.

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This is 2015; we are seeing a new government, the BJP, repeat the same mistake by imposing a nationwide ban on filmmaker Lesliee Udwins’ ‘India’s Daughter’ a BBC documentary based on the Delhi Gang Rape. This new Government has gone on record to say that such films tarnish the image of the country in front of the world. They tried to ensure that the film was banned globally. They called it a conspiracy by the west to show India in a bad light.

The First Investigation Report (FIR) filed by the Delhi police against the filmmakers under Sections 504, 505, 509 of the Indian Penal Code refers to intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, statements conducive to public mischief, word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. The filmmakers also were charged under the Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, which demands punishment for sending offensive messages through a communication service.

Is this justified?

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I watched India’s daughter (Yes I did watch it just a few hours before it was banned!). It is an average documentary but an important one. It relies not on any narrative but instead hangs on the words of the people involved, of Jyoti’s parents, one of the rapists, members of the establishment, and it is critical in allowing us to hear the cold truth.

The statements in the film of the rapist Mukesh Singh about girls and their place in society, their own responsibility for rape, and the equally outrageous statements from defense lawyers for the six perpetrators are supposedly the main reason for banning the film.  But these statements are not unheard of, they reflect the common sentiments that we hear in our everyday lives.

Between 2012 and 2015, we have heard some of the most repressive and misogynistic statements by public figures on the Delhi Gang Rape.

Rapes happen in India, not in Bharat (referring to rural India). It happens because of the western influence and culture.”  Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Hindu Nationalist organization, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh

“Boys make mistakes. Handing death sentence for rape is not fair. There will be changes in the law if we come to power.”  Mulayam Singh Yadav, Leader of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh

“She should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said ‘I consider you as my brother, brother I am helpless. She should have held their feet and said prayers. Then the misconduct (referring to rape) wouldn’t have happened. Mistake is never from one side alone” Self styled God man Asaram who is currently in prison and facing charges for raping a minor girl.

Our Honorable President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee went as far as insulting the Delhi protesters by saying, “dented and painted women protested against the gang-rape. He called the anti-rape agitation a nautanki (drama). He said the women protesters were good-looking but did not exactly look like students as claimed. He said they looked like people going to discotheques.

And there were many more such opinions. Thanks to the media, some of these were aired widely and there was outrage in response from civil society. But one wonders why did the government not respond to these? Why, instead, ban a film that simply seeks to lift these terrible remarks into public light.  Why the water cannons and tear gas fired at peaceful protesters, women and men alike? Why do most of the above-mentioned people still hold their positions of power and enjoy public life despite giving us enough evidence that they are among the most repressive minds in the country? ​

That said, ‘India’s Daughter’ cannot be and should not be looked at through only one lens. It not only showed the opinions of a rapist but also attempted to question the dichotomy within Indian society and raised important questions regarding how we perceive our women. It applauded the grit and determination of civil society and showed varied opinions on how the protests were a turning point in our fight against sexual violence.

The film sensitively portrayed the love and loss of the parents of Jyoti who struggled hard and broke all gender stereotypes to give their daughter the best of everything. It exposed that many among us are insecure with this breed of young, independent women who live their lives on their own terms and are supported by their families in doing so. It told us how these terrible men took it upon themselves to teach Jyoti and her friend a lesson as they crossed the ‘laxman rekha’ (moral boundary put forth by the society)

But one also needs to question the filmmaker and the BBC on some aspects of the documentary. Why did they not wait for the final judgment by the Supreme Count on the Delhi Gang Rape? The film might yet have an impact on the judgment and, in considering due process, how fair is that? Would this be permissible in the UK or any other developed country in the world?  How did the filmmaker acquire the permissions to interview Mukesh Singh? Was the documentary presented as being made for study or for commercial purposes?

We all know that the Government denies permissions to NGOs and human rights activists to work in prisons, so how did Udwin manage to get through? Finally, why did the filmmaker not think about the rights and dignity of the family of the accused, especially the wife and child of one of the rapists, why was no precaution taken in protecting their identity?

We strongly advocate for freedom of speech and expression in our country and believe varied opinions must be heard; there must be a right to dissent, agreement to disagree. The culture of a ban is opposed to the fundamental principles of democracy. Governments cannot decide for people, let the people decide for themselves.

Sexual violence is not only India’s problem; foreign participants are welcome in our country to contribute to the debate and help with solutions, but they need to be sympathetic to the local realities and must respect our law. They must be introspective and ask the question, ‘would this be permissible in my country?’ if the answer is no then they must resist the temptation to experiment here.

Jyoti’s parents were generous to share the details of her life with us. We must thank them for that. Their loss is irreparable, their pain unimaginable. The only way to pay respect to the spirit of Jyoti and other victims of sexual violence is to ensure their stories help us build a society that strives to be equal, empathetic and just.

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RAPED , KILLED, CREMATED – CAN INDIA’S CONSCIOUSNESS CHANGE?

We Indian women have been groped, fondled, touched, pushed, teased, pinched and raped. Some of us raped literally and some raped through eyes, comments and gestures. Each one of us has faced this since puberty, some were unlucky to face it even before, some in their homes, some in schools and most of us on the streets.

Since my teenage years, my parents, like most parents in India, told me, “The outside world is bad, so be careful.” We were told to hold our bags to cover our breasts, we were not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts, or short skirts that might attract the attention of men, no fitted tops and no make up. The world around us was BAD, we were told.

And their fear was justified: In India a woman is raped every 4 seconds. Whenever we read about a rape case the implication was that the woman had been careless: She wore a tight skirt, she went out too late, she was with a man and therefore must be a prostitute. Never was the rapist blamed. This is part of our consciousness and learning since childhood and part of the reason the terrible problem persists.

Instead, we have taught our girls to protect themselves with martial arts, told them to carry chili powder to throw in the eyes of an attacker. We have covered them in multiple layers of clothes and taught them to use an umbrella for protection. Never have we thought to look at this issue from another perspective, we, each one of us, have blindly accepted that the world around us is BAD.

But our collective failure to speak out, to act against men who rape, has led once again to tragedy, this time in Delhi. There, in mid-December, a 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped on a chartered bus over many hours and then discarded  on the streets of the national capital. Six psychotic men raped her, beat her and threw her away thinking they could do so with impunity. Nothing protected her – her multiple layers of clothes, the lessons from her parents, the six police check points which she passed as she was being raped, or her male friend – everything failed this woman.

As terrible as this was, hundreds of women are raped in India every day, some in marriages, some on the streets, but this tragedy has finally sparked the consciousness of our nation of 1 billion. Finally, we speak in one voice – WE NEED TO RESPECT WOMEN IN INDIA. Delhi students and angry women have braved tear gas, water cannons and lathi to protest against the men who thought they could use the young woman for their pleasure, to demand their punishment.

But I wonder, would the sense of national tragedy, the reaction, be the same if the girl, were wearing a short dress when she was picked up by the bus joyriders, if her male companion were a boyfriend, or if they were returning from a nightclub?

I believe this case has grabbed national attention because the girl was SPOTLESS according to the huge moral brigade of India. She was a medical student, wearing Indian dress, it was 9:30 pm (not so late), she went to a movie with a friend and she was returning home. She ticked all the boxes of the ideal Indian woman.

But would the brutality have been any less if this girl were a model or a dancer, wearing a short skirt? We need to use this moment also to analyze our own prejudices when it comes to rape. Don’t we all have biases against women who are MODERN in India? We ignore women who are raped in villages. We turn a blind eye to the thousands of Dalit women who raped by upper caste men.

Although the young woman’s horror represents a terrible loss for her family and the nation, let us hope that her life is not wasted, that our national mourning has finally brought gender inequality and gender-based violence to the forefront. For the first time, there is conversation about teaching boys to respect women, to control their urges.  People are advocating for stringent and swift punishment for rapists. The blame is finally shifting from the victims to the offenders.

This incident has also given hope to the thousands of women who are still struggling for justice after being raped. The not-so-popular Women’s Movement in India has stepped forward.

Hopefully, the national introspection will help diminish the stigma around rape and reporting rape. Bollywood, the media and our repressive society have exaggerated the social stigma attached to reporting an attack and this also needs to change.

Time has come for us as a country to think deeply about the way we see girls and the way we treat them. We worship women as goddesses but label them as whores if they dress differently. We kill girls in the womb, preferring boys, and rape them once they are born.

We need collectively to work to change both the legal and cultural frameworks of this country simultaneously and justice needs to be delivered to victims in a timely manner.

Lets not forget that men are also victims of our socialization. Lets educate our younger generation about sex and sexuality; let’s not teach them what our parents taught us.

We must sensitize our police, politicians, judiciary and media. In our Bollywood films, lets stop portraying women as objects and glorifying men who tease women.

The 23-year-old young girl died of multiple organ failure, from the failure of her country and all of us to protect her. Each one of us is responsible for not speaking out.

The only way we can pay tribute to her terrible sacrifice is to ensure that no other women experience the same, to speak out against violence, to act against violence.

The time has come for us to make this country a safe place for women.