The Delhi Police have got a restraining order on the broadcast of a documentary on the gang rape and murder of a girl in Delhi on December 16, 2012. India’s Daughter, made by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, was to be telecast on NDTV, BBC and in several other countries on International Women’s Day on Sunday. But no, Indians, will not get to watch it. Unless, of course, we watch it on BBC or YouTube and let it go viral on WhatsApp and Facebook.
What are we scared of? Are we terrified that convicted rapist Mukesh Singh justified his crime in an interview that he gave to Udwin as part of the documentary: “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy… A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes”. In parts of the transcript of the interview that have been reported in the media, he goes on, apparently without remorse about her murder: “When being raped she shouldn’t fight back. She should just lie there and allow the rape. Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.”
Are we appalled that the rapist has been given “a platform” to air his views that even his educated lawyers seem to share? Or are we terrified that we see ourselves in Mukesh Singh’s words?
We should watch Udwin’s documentary because we should know the horror of it, we should watch it to realise how commonplace Mukesh Singh’s attitude – a girl is responsible for her rape – is. We should watch it to identify the variations of Mukesh Singh in and around us – at home and in workplace, in the government and on the streets. And when we throw a stone at Mukesh Singh, it should hurt everyone who holds that view.
We have had a chief minister who reacted to the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan in Delhi: “All by herself till 3am in a city… you should not be so adventurous”. We have had the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav saying in April last year that three men convicted of raping two women in Shakti Mills in Mumbai were “poor fellows” who did not deserve the death sentence. “Boys make mistakes,” he said. On Wednesday, the Samajwadi Party, that great defender of women’s rights, walked out of the Rajya Sabha, protesting Mukesh Singh’s interview. I will have to presume that they walked out because they did not have the vocabulary to discuss gender violence and gender equality. The minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the documentary promotes violence. Did the film precede or follow the rape, minister?
For, far too long, we have shushed sexual violence. Our country and courts still don’t consider marital rape a crime. If sexual assault happens at home, as if often does, we don’t report it because our fathers and uncles and husbands should be protected, their dignity has to be defended. It is now the country’s dignity that the BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi – who said the documentary is a quest to harm India’s stature – and Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu – who said it was a conspiracy to defame the country – are trying to protect. Mukesh Singh says good girls don’t go out at night; Lekhi and Naidu say good foreigners don’t make bad documentaries about sexual violence in India; Mukesh Singh’s lawyers say girls are like diamonds that if found on the streets will be feasted on by dogs.
The ban does not serve women’s cause. It only serves to strengthen these misplaced notions of honour.
Show this documentary. Drag it out into the sunlight. Only then can it be examined, interrogated, appreciated. Do you want to question the documentary’s very title India’s Daughter? Do you want to ask how Delhi’s gruesome rape became international cause celebre – with actors Freida Pinto, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep planning to attend a screening in New York on Sunday and launching a worldwide India’s Daughter campaign against gender inequality and sexual violence? Do you want to question why it is difficult for women to have a unified voice even against sexual violence as their responses are splintered across race, class, country and caste? Screen the documentary, watch it and then analyse it threadbare in public. Because the debate on sexual violence should sensitise men and women, give them a vocabulary to articulate the changing discourse.
For, far too long, we have been quiet. We have been told not to watch this, not to wear that, not to go out, not to speak up — all in the name of protecting women. The ban on the documentary forms part of this very structure that seeks to “protect” her by denying her rights, by restraining her, by putting a veil over her face.
What this documentary does is hold a mirror up to our ugly, twisted, deformed selves. We need to watch it to know that the enemy is not out there, jabbering in Tihar Jail, but right here, among us. And as long as his attitude prevails – among men and women – no girl is free, no girl is safe.
And here is the documentary, watch at your own risk –