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