BY SHEIMA BENEMBAREK
On March 4th 2015, the Indian government banned the planned release of India’s Daughter, a documentary by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, which graphically depicts and discusses the rape epidemic in India through a profile of the gruesome Delhi gang rape of Jyoti Singh. The initial film release in India was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8th), however a court order quickly managed to deter those plans. It would appear that the Indian government believes releasing this documentary would only increase fear, tension and further incidents of violence.
On the evening of December 16th 2012, Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old university medical student joined a male friend to watch a movie at the closest theatre and never made it back home. After the movie at around 8:30 pm, as the two friends were making their way back on a bus, the lights were suddenly turned off and six men proceeded to assault Jyoti’s friend and then take turns raping her. As though their genitals weren’t a sufficiently violent means of intrusion on her body, they also used an iron rod. Her vaginal cavity was assaulted beyond belief as one of the convicted rapists recounts, “someone put his hand inside her and pulled out something long…it was her intestines.” Jyoti died two weeks later at a hospital. The Indian community, outraged, staged mass protests in the streets regarding violence against women for over a month. “Pain united all of us. I don’t think there was a single woman who didn’t feel the pain that girl had gone through,” a female protestor explains in the documentary.
It’s impossible for me to find the right words to even begin considering the horrors of the mentality of rape contained in this documentary. But with fascinating access to the convicted rapists’ opinions in the interviews, this documentary film starts an unparalleled dialogue and creates an opportunity for understanding. With statements, about a woman’s role in the act of rape, such as “she should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’,” it’s difficult not to have an opinion or, at the very least, a desire to comprehend where this brutality and disregard for human life comes from. In the documentary, we see that there is an initial foundation of glaringly perverse notions of what boundaries there are, or aren’t, regarding the female body in certain parts of the Indian society. India’s Child, however, doesn’t stop at that social reality; it goes deeper and provides possible explanations by exposing the lack of education, overpopulation, and the disheartening extremes of poverty that seems to generate opportunities for such horrors.
Sadly, the banning of this documentary in India isn’t surprising– it’s not the first or last time that media/art will be censored. What is disconcerting, however, is the silence around it on social media platforms. On my Facebook feed, the only person to have mentioned this ban was Canadian sociopolitical activist Irshad Manji. In her post, she explains the difficulty in finding an active link to the documentary and asks her followers to share if they have one. A government silencing the voice of a filmmaker is a tragedy; not seeing a rippling effect about it across our social media platforms is just incomprehensible. Please watch the documentary while it’s still possible; share the link and your thoughts!
This CBC link gives access to India’s Daughter. It expires on April 14: