To honor the International Women’s Day, a major documentary is about to release this March 2015. The documentary called ‘India’s Daughters’ made by Leslee Udwin, a British Filmmaker.
The documentary has received extreme criticism and is about to be banned from broadcast in India because of the controversial rapist interviews.
I had extremely mixed feelings about this documentary because of the aggravating content. So, I decided to write about the good, the ugly and let you decide for yourself.
The first problem that I have is the attention this rapist is getting from the media. It is a rapist’s comment; what else would he say other than blaming the victim. (I don’t want to give him more importance by quoting him here, you can read his quotes if you want to here.) Activist Kavita Krishnan rightly points out that amplifying the voice of a rapist is actually counterproductive to the immense amount of hard work Indian men and women have done until now to fight for women’s safety in India since the December 2012 gang rape.
My personal reaction was weird itself. When I saw the news that there was a documentary on the brutal rape, it gave me the feelings that can’t be described in words. I am enthusiastic to know more about what had happened and the details of the protests in hopes that this would lead India to make tangible changes. At the same time, I feel bone chills, shock and aggravation at the disgusting event and I do know it will trigger my PTSD and keep me in a disturbed mental state for days if not weeks.
The only hope I have from this movie is that it would show us Indians a mirror and see how ugly we look defending patriarchal norms. The bigger risks of this however are that the rapist could be a hero for the misogynists and get much more fame and attention that he doesn’t deserve.
Speaking particularly about the rapist, is there really a need to know why he raped? There was a defenseless human being and he was in a group and he raped. It is as simple as that. In fact every single rape that occurs has only and only one reason- the existence of a rapist. Does it matter what he thought? NO. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if he slept walk into raping the woman, she is dead now and nothing can change that.
Why his thoughts don’t matter? Because he made a conscious choice to rape. You cannot expect to hear Buddhist teachings from his mouth now because if he practiced it, he wouldn’t be where he is. And mind you, this was not only rape but also one of the most brutal acts done on a woman that make my heart sink when I hear about it. Let’s say he feels sorry now for the R.I.P brave girl who didn’t stop fighting. Let’s say he apologizes. What does that change?
But after listening to her interview, I can some how see why Leslee met and interviewed these rapists. She wanted to know what can possibly be the reason for this brutality which a normal human would not wish upon his/her worst mortal enemy. May be we already know the answer. Yes, its because he did not value the life of a woman or any of her rights. And who told him that?
His mother? His father? His teachers? All of them???
Other points of criticism against Leslee Udwin are regarding her not being an Indian but a white woman who has just attempted to show how pathetic Indian men are. Well, any woman who feels for a cause must not be judged for her nationality but her efforts. The other way to look at it is that a British woman spent two years of her time running around Indian jails and streets to throw light on a subject that needs attention. Whether we regard it as ‘white rescue mission’ or ‘white supremacy’, we cannot disregard her effort and intention.
Yes rapes do happen in UK and USA. A documentary on Campus rapes in the USA, called Hunting Ground has won several awards for similar work recently. But just because the filmmakers were Americans, they deserve credit and if they were Indians they wouldn’t? For me, her nationality doesn’t matter until I see any major flaws in the film that show something that does not belong to Indian culture.
Every feminist knows this but for the last time it bears repeating that- no, it was not the victims fault. It needs two hands for a clap does not apply to a criminal situation because only this rapist wanted to clap while the woman didn’t. So if there is no other hand to clap, you cut it off from someone’s arm and clap. That’s what exactly a rape is. She could have been out on the 25th hour and be alone and dressed in any damn thing, she didn’t deserve this. No woman does.
About the attitudes and mindsets of Indian men- activists are unhappy that Leslee Udwin commented on it and said she was shocked at the brutality. May be Indians feel ashamed that now the world would know what their wives and mothers have been keeping quiet about since forever. May be Indian women who silence the activists and other rebellious women would feel the shame. Yes there are Indians who are voicing and protesting but there are billions who don’t and are making efforts to shut the activists down. A global outrage is very helpful in our situation.
For Indians-as Kavita said, it is no shock to hear that the rapists’ comments were exactly the same as those of Asaram, a so called god man who proved to be the devils assistant. So, we Indians know how normal it is for our men to think that way. That is what we expect from them and we are not surprised. However, a non Indian woman would most certainly be shocked. You can call it rape-culture shock.
Rape culture shock is when an Indian woman who has no autonomy over her life sees or hears about a woman in the West getting raped after she was drunk. For a middle class Indian girl, living under tight restrictions at her parents’ home, it is anything but imaginable to have that kind of autonomy to be able to 1.go to a club, 2.consume alcohol and 3.out in the night! Rapes occur in all parts of the world but under different environments. The only thing common in every single rape incident in every part of the world is- the rapist.
I don’t believe that stereotyping all Indian men as misogynists is a solution. Yes, there are great guys out there, I know many and I would hope to believe so. But global research and personal experience says there are many more men and women that really have brutal feelings towards women. If I wouldn’t personally know people in family and friends circles who actively blame the victims of rape, I would never believe that people can be like this. But admitting rape is wrong and blaming the victim at the same time is less than helfpul.
If a woman fights back, they say, you should have let it happen so your lfie would be spared.
If she does not fight back, they say you allowed it, you wanted it. You could have screamed if you were a ‘real vicitm’.
This also perpetuates marital rape. Just because you are his wife, you cannot be raped?
I wish this sounded just as ancient and backward to others as much as this sounds to me…
Being an active feminist, I explained those myths and facts to people who know and trust me. And after hours of explanation, they ask-
“but why did she go out in the night wearing jeans?”
India’s problem is not rape but the patriarchal mindset that Leslee talked about, that allows rape and many other violent crimes against women. The root cause of the disease as she said, is not the rapists. They are the symptoms of that disease.
I don’t know whether the film would help challenge or simply narrate those mindsets with no actual outcome. Frankly speaking we need to challenge those anyways, with or without this film.
But do we have it?
Yes, I believe we have what it would take to change it.
My worry is- HOW?
As an Indian, I admire Leslee’s work and do not feel it is a white rescue mission and non Indian femisnists must stay away from. Plus I personally believe that an outsiders perspective can be very helpful many times. It helps us see what has become normal to us.Her film can be criticised on many points but not on the basis of her nationality. What do you think?
Wishing you equality and rights,
Watch Leslee’s interview here.