I would like to begin this post by saying that the argument I put forth is after having watched the entire documentary made by Leslie Udwin. This particular documentary is based on the story of Jyoti- the ‘victim’ of a brutal gang rape in December 2012 and the nation-wide uproar that followed it. In fact, it was this collective outrage across the country that brought Leslie to India and inspired her to document the proceedings of this ‘rarest of rare case’ involving 6 accused (one being a juvenile at the time of the incident). Our leaders however are of the opinion that the content of the documentary sends out the wrong message about the general Indian populace and they decided to ban the screening of the documentary in the country as well as urge the governments of other countries to abstain from doing so.
Having watched the documentary, it shames me to admit that a lot of the thoughts expressed by the people who were interviewed were not shocking to me, because I genuinely believe that most Indian men and women do have the same underlying mindset- women and men cannot be treated as equals. It is unfortunate that many women also ascribe to this school of thought where girls are brought up as secondary members of the family, that is, with lesser respect and privileges as compared to their male counterparts. The net result of this process is a society where most men as well as women believe that women do not have a right over their bodies. It believes that they do not have the right to live if they do not follow patriarchal norms and conventions.
This is the primary reason and it is extremely important that the documentary should be viewed. Through the painful story of Jyoti, the director tries to send a powerful message that the rapists are not the disease of the society, rather it is the society which needs to be held responsible for nurturing such mindset. Unless the societal mindset changes, the severity of laws or the speediness of justice will do little to make this country a safer place for women. For instance, the moment a boy is brought up in an environment where women are treated with the same amount of respect as he is, he would never have the notion that he has an authority to take whatever he wants from a woman, with or without her consent. Likewise, the moment a girl is brought up in an environment where she is treated on par with her male counterparts, she will demand the same treatment from society at large and impart the same as well.
Unfortunately, our elected parliament is of the opinion that the thoughts of the defence lawyers and the accused expressed in the documentary will provide a tainted picture of our country to the world. So for the purpose of saving face, our parliament has decided to ban the movie in the country. This is unfortunate because we (by ‘we’ I mean the representatives we elect) refuse to accept that most of the men and women in our country (across many other countries as well) think along the same lines as those interviewed in the documentary. How many times have we heard our ‘leaders’ question the intent and character of a victim of molestation or rape? Why do our women safety campaigns have to appeal to men to protect their ‘sisters, mothers and daughters’, further reiterating the patriarchy existing in the society? Why do the soap operas and movies still show women as being secondary caregivers and men being primary providers?
There are serious issues in society that need to be addressed and I personally feel a documentary which brings these issues to the fore should not be banned but should be widely circulated followed by constructive discourse over how to move forward towards a better, more equal society. It’s high time we accept our society for what it is and take steps towards improving it.
P.S: There is a particular reason why the name of the victim was disclosed by her parents. They wanted to make it very clear that the girl should have no shame in being raped. The shame should lie with the rapists instead. To honour that intent, Jyoti has been mentioned by name in this post as well.