Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day and to coincide with this BBC is premiering a film titled “India’s Daughter” (yes, you can watch it in Canada too). It is a documentary by award-winning filmaker Leslee Udwin that centers on the December 2012 rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi. It explores the attitudes and culture towards women in India and what has changed since the event took place.
The victim, who came to be known as Nirbhaya (meaning fearless one) suffered unimaginable horrors while riding a bus home with her male friend after spending an evening at the movies. The extent of her injuries were abhorrent and thirteen days later she succumbed to those injuries.
Her death sparked outrage across the world and inspired protests for greater protection of women from sexual violence. Laws were reformed in India. Her perpetrators have been convicted and are imprisoned. In asking the question – why? – filmmaker Udwin spent two years conducting interviews for India’s Daughter. Among the many people interviewed was the man driving the bus that fateful night. His attitude towards women, even still, is shocking.
“You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night,” he told Udwin. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. 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.”
By his thinking, and many within the same culture, only indecent girls would be out at night and therefore deserve what they experience.
A 34 year old man was interviewed for the film who is imprisoned for the rape of a 5 year old girl. Udwin asked “How could you do something so terrible that would ruin a child’s life?’”. He said, ‘She was a beggar girl, her life was of no value.’
Nirbhaya’s mistake? She fought back. “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back,” the bus driver told Udwin. “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off”.
Not surprisingly, the defense lawyers for the Nirbhaya’s rape and murder share the same outlook. “We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman”. A second defence lawyer, AP Singh, says if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself…in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
The documentary India’s Daughter airs tonight at 9 pm.