CUL­TURE

∙ Not Our Daugh­ter: Cen­sor­ship in the World’s Largest Democ­racy

SHE Canada - - CONTENT - By Priya Ku­mar

Sit­ting on my couch in Lon­don, I ab­sent-mind­edly flipped through the chan­nels on the evening of March 4th. With­out even re­al­is­ing what I was watch­ing, I came across the doc­u­men­tary In­dia’s Daugh­ter on the BBC. Pre­sented by BBC Sto­ryville, the doc­u­men­tary opened with the haunting re­con­struc­tion of the night a 23-year-old phys­io­ther­apy stu­dent boarded a bus with a male friend af­ter watch­ing a movie at one of New Delhi’s most up­mar­ket shop­ping malls.

of the rapists, his fam­ily and Singh’s fam­ily. “These were or­di­nary, ap­par­ently nor­mal and cer­tainly un­re­mark­able men,” Ud­win said of Singh’s at­tack­ers. Ini­tially sched­uled for broad­cast on Sun­day, March 9th—in­ter­na­tional Women’s Day—the BBC de­cided to move the film up to an ear­lier slot based on the back­lash it was al­ready re­ceiv­ing. More so than the bru­tal at­tack it­self, the film fo­cuses on the po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of the in­ci­dent in In­dia by high­light­ing that even those with power har­bour down­right Palae­olithic at­ti­tudes to­wards women. and vi­o­lence against women is a reg­u­lar part of ev­ery­day life. In an in­ter­view with Ud­win’s crew, the fam­ily ex­pressed their ex­as­per­a­tion at their only son’s im­pris­on­ment, with lit­tle men­tion of the moral­ity be­hind his ac­tions. A psy­chi­a­trist in the film touches on the enor­mity of the prob­lem by claim­ing that some of the men in jail that have com­mit­ted up­ward of 200 rapes will only ever be con­victed of 12. More shock­ing how­ever, was the in­ter­view with one of the rapists him­self. He claims the in­ci­dent he’s im­pris­oned for is not even his worst crime; another saw him burn­ing a woman alive. On that fate­ful night she put her life in the hands of an un­known bus driver, as­sum­ing he would get her safely to her fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. As widely re­ported, the ex­act op­po­site oc­curred. She was bru­tally raped by five men on the bus and was left for dead at the side of the road be­fore be­ing res­cued. Jy­oti Singh passed away in a Sin­ga­pore hos­pi­tal of mas­sive trauma to her in­ter­nal or­gans di­rectly re­lated to the at­tack. Re­vis­ited through­out the course of the film, this theme comes off as es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic when one of the de­fence lawyers ad­mits on cam­era that he would burn his own daugh­ter alive if she dis­hon­oured his fam­ily. Another de­fence lawyer places the blame on the vic­tim by stat­ing that had she been pro­tected by the men in her life she would not have been out in public dressed that way at that time of night. The In­dian gov­ern­ment quickly stepped in af­ter the doc­u­men­tary’s re­lease and banned it. More so than high­light­ing the de­vel­op­ing na­tion’s pen­chant for misog­yny, the cen­sor­ship of the doc­u­men­tary also drew the at­ten­tion of the world to In­dia as a na­tion of in­tol­er­ance. Like a petu­lant child, In­dia stomped its feet and threw a tantrum when crit­i­cised about its ap­palling record of vi­o­lence against women. Ud­win took her cam­eras to the shanty town where one of these men lived and has fam­ily. The ex­treme lev­els of poverty are ev­i­dent The law the gov­ern­ment cited in jus­ti­fy­ing its de­ci­sion to cen­sor the film dates back to I’d heard snip­pets about how the film­maker Leslee Ud­win man­aged to get ac­cess to one

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