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British filmmaker Leslee Udwin‘s documentary India’s Daughter has been banned from Indian screens by local authorities.
The documentary — due for airing on Sunday, International Women’s Day, on Britain’s BBC Four and channels in seven other countries, including India’s NDTV — is about the fatal gang-rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in 2012.
Co-produced by well-known Indian television journalist Dibang, the film includes an interview with one of the four jailed attackers, Mukesh Singh, who said women are more responsible for rape than men. Clips of the interview — shown on news channels on Tuesday — sparked local and international outrage as well as a social media campaign to ban the film.
Police secured a court injunction blocking the film’s broadcast in India, with the BBC reporting that the court order also prevents publication of the interview.
In December 2012, 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh was raped and ferociously attacked on a bus while returning home with a male friend after seeing the film Life of Pi at a south Delhi cinema. Jyoti later died from her horrific injuries in hospital as massive street protests rocked India demanding more safety for women.
In 16 hours of interviews with Udwin, Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus that picked up Jyoti, showed little remorse for what happened, seemed confused and surprised by the attention surrounding the case and chillingly blamed the victim for her fate.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said. “Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good.”
Singh told Udwin that he and the other men involved in the incident “had a right to teach them a lesson” and he said that women should let rape happen if they don’t want to get seriously hurt.
“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,” he said.
He added: “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.”
Singh’s comments have caused controversy not just for their callousness. Many in India feel that Udwin’s documentary gives the rapists a platform to air their views. India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued a notice late night on Tuesday to all television channels not to broadcast the documentary.
While Udwin said she received written permission to conduct the interview — filming him for seven days — the Times of India reported Wednesday that India’s home ministry was planning to take legal action against the filmmaker for “violating stipulated permission conditions.”
In addition, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh addressed parliament on Wednesday saying he had sought information under which conditions permission was granted for the interview.
“I would like to make it clear. As soon as I got to know about this incident, I was personally hurt. I immediately talked to the concerned authorities and gave the instruction that it should not be telecast in any condition, and (restraining) orders were taken from court last night that whatever has been telecast should not be released,” Singh said. “In future, no one will be given permission to interview rapists.” If permission is given, the person giving it will be held responsible, he added.
Udwin, along with the victims’ parents and rape awareness groups have pushed back against the criticism, arguing that it was necessary to understand the mindset of these men to deal with violence against women in Indian society.
“What I learned from these encounters, is the degree to which society itself is responsible for these men and for their actions,” Udwin said in an earlier statement announcing the film’s planned telecast on NDTV (leading news network New Delhi Television). “These rapists are not the disease, they are the symptoms. Gender inequality is the disease, and gender equality is the solution. The only one.”
Appearing on a NDTV studio discussion on India’s Daughter alongside Udwin, the victim’s parents, Asha and Badrinath Singh also supported the film. “A convict in jail is challenging women and saying they dare not come out after 9 p.m.,” said Asha Singh. “In our society, such people no longer have the fear of the law. They treat women like plates of food that can be consumed and discarded. They will destroy our society.”
“My integrity and my objective in making this film is totally honest,” added Udwin. “I myself have been raped. There is no shame for me; the shame is for the rapists. The film tries to show the disease is not the rapists, the disease is in society.”
“This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and cooperation of the victim’s parents, provides a revealing insight into a horrific crime that sent shock waves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women,” the BBC said in a statement Wednesday. “The film handles the issue responsibly and we are confident the program fully complies with our editorial guidelines. The BBC will broadcast Storyville — India’s Daughter, in the U.K. on BBC Four. The documentary has the backing of a number of other public service broadcasters, however the BBC is only responsible for transmission of the film in the U.K.”
India’s parliamentary affairs minister, M. Venkaiah Naidu, said: “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.”
Meanwhile, Udwin issued a statement on Wednesday urging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the ban: “I urge Mr. Modi to deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film. India should be embracing this film — not blocking it with a knee-jerk 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 FIR and 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.”
India’s Daughter will be broadcast in the U.K. as part of the Storyville series on BBC Four on March 8 at 22:00 GMT.
March 4, 5:10 a.m. Updated with latest comments and reports.
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