March 5 2015
Storyville, BBC 4, ‘India’s Daughter’ 10pm, March 4
SOMETIMES you have so much rage – you just don’t know where to begin…
Last night’s dramatic airing of “India’s Daughter” on BBC 4 at 10pm was a salutary and sobering reminder of just what the country is up against, in tackling casual sexism and sexual violence.
The documentary which was meant to have been aired on Sunday (March 8) on UN International Woman’s Day was brought forward after the Indian government moved to ban it.
Precisely why, no one seems to have explained, but there are reports this morning that the documentary is available on Youtube in India.
That is something. A lot of people – read Indians – are very worked up about the fact that the BBC made this film and that it shows India and Indians in a not very flattering light.
Get over it. Sure, India is not the rape capital of the world – its per head number of rapes is not particularly high. And one rape is too many and every perpetrator must face the full force of the law. Those folks who want it banned are also conveniently forgetting that Indian broadcaster NDTV assisted and supported this film. Good on them.
And just because a few Indians think nothing of raping or violently beating a woman because of some abhorrent and vile notions around ‘decency’ and ‘propriety’, it doesn’t mean all of them do.
Like Jyoti’ s parents who were the real heroes of last night’s programme. They may still be conservative, but you just know there was a lot of mutual love and the respect that flows from it there. They treated Jyoti like a son and why shouldn’t they?
India needs far more of them and less of the others – far, far less of the others.
People this morning in the UK were calling for the defence lawyers of the rapists to be hanged as well – you can’t be – not having for bad thoughts!
Seriously speaking though, those lawyers displayed some astonishing attitudes – one stood by his earlier assertion (at the time of the trial) that if his daughter had any sort of relations with a man before marriage, he would drive her to a farmhouse, gather every near and far relative and in front of them all, douse her in kerosene…She was as good as dead to them anyway, her honour besmirched and useless to anyone.
The sad fact is that many people in India would see little wrong in what he proposed – for the most part women are still regarded as the ‘property of men’.
The other lawyer who waxed lyrical about Indian culture and how wonderful it was, made the rather telling point that there was no place for women in it. Another incredible statement. ‘They are nothing’, was what he meant. And so much for the many Hindu Goddesses…let them deal with him!
In the cooler light of day – it was very difficult to collect one’s thoughts coherently after last night’s film – “India’s Daughter” showed the good, the bad and the very ugly.
The good was undoubtedly Jyoti’s parents – and Jyoti herself: bright, ambitious, and compassionate. I like to think of her and her parents as the new India, along with the many (young Indian men) who marched against sexual violence and sexism.
If these folks get into positions of power and influence, India has much to be excited about…economic development and modernity go hand in hand, whether you like it or not. Change is taking place – look at the number of women in the workplace in India – and it will continue. You can’t give the young dreams and then say, ‘This is not Indian culture’.
The bad – the lawyers are only repeating what they’ve been handed down culturally over a very long time.
‘Women are nothing, they exist to serve men and must at all times uphold family dignity and honour and if they stray, it is quite legitimate to punish them with violence.’ That view still prevails in many countries, not just India.
The really ugly – yes, if the above isn’t bad enough – is what the main interviewee said about his rape…‘She deserved it for being out at 8pm with another man who was not a member of her family, and she made it worse by fighting back.’
You see how the bad and the ugly are connected? All rapists will have some form of defence along the lines of, ‘she asked for it’, ‘she deserved it’. It’s really not that surprising or shocking – upsetting though it is to hear, it isn’t addressing the issues at hand. Think instead, how can we begin to change the mindsets of such men?
It isn’t easy for any society to have its worst highlighted and scrutinised, especially by the outside world.
And on that point, India shouldn’t be made out as worse than other countries – this happened because it is at a powerful and, in some ways, destabilising intersection, where modernity and centuries-old tradition are clashing and much of India is still grappling with its implications. As a liberal society in some respects, the clash is only more acute.
With a film like this, a cool rational analysis is better than an emotional reaction and accepting there is a problem is the first step you can take towards tackling it…c’mon India, you are bigger and better than that…let Indians make up their own minds…please.
Sailesh Ram, editor, www.asianculturevulture.com
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