20 days on from the original broadcast of India’s Daughter, the words “a woman is more responsible for rape than a man” are still ringing around my head. Leslee Udwin’s documentary examined the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh through interviews with her parents, the perpetrators and their families.
The footage itself was both graphic and disturbing; from the way one perpetrator describes how another disposed of Jyoti’s maimed intestines by throwing them out of the bus window, to an educated lawyer asserting that he would set his daughter alight if she engaged in pre-marital activities.
Yet, it is also clear to see how this attitude is changing. Jyoti’s parents themselves were driven in their activism to end the shame culture surrounding rape, not to mention the thousands of Indian citizens who marched on the streets of Indian towns and cities to demand justice for Jyoti.
Despite international criticism, the Indian government still refuses to allow the broadcast of the documentary. And, in these 20 days, further high profile rape cases have been making headlines. A mob stormed a prison in Nagaland to publically lynch a rape suspect. An elderly nun was gang raped in West Bengal during a robbery of her convent.
Jyoti Singh stands as a symbol for a culture torn between the traditional role of women, and an increasingly empowered female population
These cases demonstrate that India’s rape problem is much more profound than one gang rape in Delhi. Jyoti Singh stands as a symbol for a culture torn between the traditional role of women, and an increasingly empowered female population. The problem is, all at once, educational, judicial, societal, and religious.
The government’s prohibition of India’s Daughter, probably for fear of its international reputation in the eyes of tourists, is also disconcerting. The time since the broadcast could have been used as a period for self-reflection, instead of fruitlessly shutting down every attempt to circulate the documentary.
Let us not forget, however, that the actions of a few bad men should not equate to the total stereotyping of an entire population. India’s Daughter portrays India as having an exceptional rape problem. “A rape every 22 minutes”, is the tag line. Yet, in the UK, 250 people are raped every day. That equates to one rape every six minutes.
We are all acutely aware of the paedophilia and rape culture that has rocked the very core of Britain’s institutions. As I type these words, the BBC is reporting that DJ Neil Fox has been charged with nine sex offences.
Yet, in the UK, 250 people are raped every day. That equates to one rape every six minutes
Whether or not we are suffering from a colonial hangover, there is certainly some hypocrisy in projecting our ‘enlightened’ ideals onto India. We have the right to question India’s educational and judicial structures, and to broadcast fairly conducted interviews with rapists and rape victims. We do not, however, have the right to propagate the belief that all Indian men are rapists when rape is a problem intrinsic to our own country.
20 days on from the broadcast of India’s Daughter, and it is becoming clearer that rape is not endemic to one country, but to all nations. There should not be a tit-for-tat battle about who’s a bigger rapist, but an attempt to tackle both institutionalised and cultural problems surrounding sexual abuse.
The documentary about Jyoti Singh was a resounding examination of the horrific case. But, there is a bigger picture, both in the India and the UK, which also needs to be examined. Highlighting issues of rape around the world can encourage self-reflection, so that all states and all peoples can look inwards to assess their own morality and build towards a safer future for women.
Image by Associated Press via indiawest.com