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India Bans British Rape Documentary

FILE - Indian students hold a protest organized to create awareness of gender-based violence against women in Mumbai, Dec 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
FILE - Indian students hold a protest organized to create awareness of gender-based violence against women in Mumbai, Dec 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
India Bans British Rape Documentary
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Officials in India have blocked the showing of a British documentary about a rape that shocked the world two years ago. The film includes comments from one of the six men who carried out the attack. His words angered many Indians.

Yet some people say banning the film is not the solution to the problem. They instead are calling for changing a way of thinking that devalues women.

Mukesh Singh is one of the rapists who attacked a 23-year-old student in December 2012. He says women who leave their homes at night have only themselves to blame. He told filmmaker Leslee Udwin that “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a man.”

Mukesh Singh is being held in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail. He has appealed his death sentence for the rape of Jyoti Singh on a bus. The young woman got on the bus after watching a movie at night.

In the film, Mukesh Singh is clearly not sorry for what he did. He told the filmmaker that had Jyoti Singh not tried to resist the rape, he and the others would not have beat her. She died from the beating. In his words, “she should have been silent” and “allowed the rape.”

The hour-long documentary is called “India’s Daughter.” The British Broadcasting Corporation is to broadcast the program on March 8. An Indian TV station had also planned to show the film. But as many people expressed their anger over Mukesh Singh’s comments, police banned the film. Police said it could create, in their words, “an atmosphere of fear and tension, with the possibility of public outcry.”

Indian television channels have been advised not to broadcast the film.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh criticized the filmmakers. He said they violated the conditions under which permission was given to speak with Singh.

“It was noticed that the documentary film depicts the comments of the convict which are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women.”

Leading women’s activists and the Indian government were in rare agreement in their anger about the BBC film. They criticized the filmmakers for giving Singh a chance to make what they believe are offensive statements.

Ranjana Kumari heads the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. She says Mukesh Singh’s thinking is similar to that of many Indian men.

“To really, you know, bring this kind of interview out, and then to play it, you know, and sell it, I think this is totally unacceptable. It is really a violation of (the) dignity of women.”

People are not just angry about what Mukesh Singh said. They are also angry that officials gave a foreign filmmaker permission to meet with Singh and other jailed rapists.

Leslee Udwin defended the film when it was shown earlier this month in New Delhi, before it was banned. She said she is a victim of sexual violence. She says she had permission to speak with the prisoners and was saddened by the decision to ban the film.

The movie describes what happened on the night of the gang rape. The film included comments from the young woman’s parents, lawyers and her doctor.

Ms. Udwin says she was shocked by Muhesh Singh’s ideas about women.

“And that is what is extremely shocking. Not what he did, but what he thinks that led him to do what he did. And it is not just he who thinks that. It’s a societal problem. No regret for one second out of 16 hours, no regret -- in fact, the opposite. Mukesh’s attitude is, ‘Why are they making a fuss about us? Everybody is doing it.’”

Some people say all the anger about the film is blocking one of its central issues -- that Indian society does not value women.

Javed Akhtar is a well-known Indian filmmaker.

He says he is very glad the documentary has been made, so that millions of Indian men can understand that they also think the same way as the rapist does. He says if these men dislike what Mukesh Singh said, they should change their beliefs.

Indian lawmaker Anu Aga is a businesswoman and social worker. She agrees with Mr. Akhtar.

“Suggesting death penalty, banning this movie is not the answer. We have to confront the issue that men in India do not respect women, and any time there is a rape, blame is put on the woman, that she was indecently dressed, she provoked the man. It is not just the man in the prison’s views -- it is the views of many men in India. Let’s be aware of it, and let’s not pretend that all is well.”

The men who raped and murdered the young woman were tried and jailed in nine months. That is a record for India, where it often takes years for criminal cases to be decided. The men have appealed their sentences. Two years after the attack, the Supreme Court has still not made a decision about the appeals.

I’m Jim Tedder.

Anjana Pasricha in New Delhi prepared this report. Christopher Jones-Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

depict – v. to describe (someone or something) using words or a story

derogatory – adj. expressing a low opinion of someone or something; showing a lack of respect for someone or something

affront – n. an action or statement that insults or offends someone

mindset – n. a way of thinking; a person’s position or set of opinions about something

indecently – adv. not covering enough of the body