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India’s Daughter – A mirror to our society

Today is international Women’s Day, and BBC wanted to launch their new documentary India’s Daughter today all over the world. This documentary is banned by Indian government, but still available at various platforms, and lots of people have seen it. I think the ban is not justified, as it is like banning a mirror which shows our true face. It’s more like few of those discussions we always try to avoid. This documentary brings out the topics which we don’t want to discuss. So, the better way to avoid such discussions is to ban it, and no one will talk about it. 

The documentary is not offering anything new to the Indian viewer. We all more or less know these things already. To put everything into context before we discuss this, here is a summary of what is shown in the documentary.

Jyoti Singh, we know her as Nirbhaya, was brutally raped and murdered in 16th December 2012 in Delhi, the capital of our country, on a moving bus at 8:30pm in the evening, by 6 people, including a juvenile. All culprits were captured and 5 were sentenced to death, but still awaiting the result for their appeal in Supreme Court. The juvenile was sentenced for 3 years in special remand home, and will be released in December this year. This documentary also shows through Jyoti’s parents and her tuition teacher/friend, that how she fought against all odds with support from their poor parents, to become doctor. Then, finally, the documentary goes on to explain the opinion of one of the rapist and their defense lawyer. Their opinion, and input from Jail’s psychologist doctor shows the ugly face of our society, as they do not feel any remorse for the act, but according to them, the girl was responsible for her death. 

I did not feel any anger while listening to the rapist or the lawyer, as they were not saying anything new. All these statements were old, and I have heard or read multiple times, from multiple people. Similar or harder statements were made in public by much high profile, educated, sometimes MPs and ministers/chief ministers. I do not have any data, but I think 90% males in India has similar thought process. They do not consider women as human being, but she is an object to them. She is just an object of entertainment, and nothing else. If you are not in agreement, I ask you to do a small experiment. Just stand on a road or marketplace, in a corner and observe people. When there is a women pass by, just saw how many people are ogling at her. You will then agree with me that 90% of male have the same mind set. Chances are, you may be one of them and instead of looking at other people, you will also be ogling at the passing by lady. 

Our society as whole do not recognise women as equal to men, and has a unbiased and clear understanding of what is good and what is bad for women. There is no double standard here, it’s same all over. If you see a girl smoking, she is a bad person, who deserves to be punished. Recently, four student from Bangalore created a poster called “Bad Girl”, which is reproduced here, and they said that they created it based on their own experience. 

Now, if you look at this, it’s true, and deep within, most of us agree to these pics depicted in this poster. There is no escape for our women, they have to adjust, live their life in this society which will continue to exploit them. They have to live under the dictatorship of their male caretakers all their life, and the male caretakers always decide what best for them. It could be father and brother in their early life, then their husband, followed by their son. And if by any chance, there is no male caretaker is available, she immediately becomes characterless and available for everyone. If by any chance, she tries to defy them, and do something on her own, it immediately becomes the question of family’s honor and prestige, and she is punished. The punishment varies from family to family, place to place, ranging from verbal abuse to physical beating to even death by her family members, just to save their honor in society. 

The above paragraph may not be liked by everyone, as I also agree, that I am generalising this a bit too much. But let me explain in detail. I am not saying that every father is like that and wants to control his daughter to become an oppressed and object like creature. There are many people who love their daughter to the core of their heart. They want to provide best possible facilities for her. But, as we are living in a society full of dog like men, they have to be careful about her. They encourage her to study, to develop her own personality, to become what she wants to become, help her fulfill her dreams. But, when it comes to going out, cloths or friends, they had no other option but to step in, with their own decision. I don’t think girls will understand the reason of their father preventing them to go out alone in evening, or from wearing short cloths etc. They do this because they don’t trust the men outside, not because they don’t trust their own daughter. They know she is not safe, as no girl in our country is safe. Each and every one is vulnerable and can become a victim anytime. According to a recent study, a girl is raped every 20 minutes in India. I do not know if that study is correct or not, but I know that rape or molestation is a normal activity in our society. Men think that they have every right to molest women. And if she resist, they have right to punish her as well. 

We do it for our honor or for her safety, it’s scarifies she needs to do for us. And this is just beginning of her life, which will continue till her death. 

Lets come back to the documentary, which features interview from one of the rapist. Whatever he and his lawyer said in their interview, is true reflection of what our society thinks. The rapist seems puzzled on why he has been given the death sentence. He still doesn't think that they have done something wrong. And that is what the thinking of our society is. The lawyer says that he will burn his daughter or sister alive if they engage in pre-marriage sexual relations. He will not do so for his son, but will gladly do so with the girls in his family. This is how our society thinks. The lawyer say girls are like diamonds, and you need to keep it safe, like an object. And this is how our society thinks. The rapist said that she should not have resisted and fought back. She should have let us rape her, that way, she could have been alive today. So, it’s her fault that she is dead today. According to the rapist, girls are more responsible for rapes than boys. And this is how our society also thinks. 

These guys represent our society in large, and this documentary shows a mirror to our society. We know that we think and act like that, but we don’t want to discuss that in open. And certainly not through the voice of a convicted rapist. That’s the reason we want this documentary to be banned. Below is a small clip of Javed Akhtar in Parliament venting his anger against the ban. He says that such statements are already made in parliament, by our leaders. 

There is no reason for this documentary to be banned. Even if we see this, its not going to change anything. We already know these facts, and we know that our society is like that. There is nothing new in this documentary for society at large. 

Yes, this documentary does shows the journey of Jyoti, and her fight against the odd faced by women in our society. Her parents were fully supportive towards her dreams, and even sold their ancestral land; spend their savings on her studies. It was the same savings which they wanted to use for her marriage. She did a call center job to support her hostel expenses. She even fights back when she was raped. And you can see what happened. She was killed. She was tortured, her body brutally mutilated and then killed. 

If she stayed at home, did not study medical, kept herself limited to household works, and got married to some boy her parents selected based on their savings for dowry, she would have been alive today. Because she could not have gone out to see a movie like that with her friend, and would have saved from the hands to these rapists. She would have been alive, suppressed, exploited, without a dream, but alive, living under the care of someone who is supposed to be her husband. Someone who has full rights to visit other women, have a relationship or even second marriage with someone else, and she can’t do anything. But she would be breathing. I am not sure if we can actually call it “Alive”, but she would be breathing. And so are millions of women in our society today. 

I do not have a solution for this, because it’s not a simple issue here. This issue is related to the mind-set of our society as a whole. You just can’t change mind-set in a short time. But I do think that something can be done; only it takes time to see the results. 

We need to amend our laws accordingly so that any accuse should get maximum punishment. All kind of rapists should be awarded with death penalty. Simple eve teasing and even small type of molestation should get six months to one year of jail. More importantly, the judicial system needs to fast track these all cases, and the execution should be done within a specified time limit. This time limit should be for overall procedure, including all kinds of appeal, in all type of courts or even the presidential pardon appeal.

Justice delayed is justice denied. This case of Nirbhaya is still hanging for last three years. Currently Supreme Court appeal is pending, and even after confirmation from Supreme Court, the rapist will appeal to President, which again will delay the execution further. This is the case where our government promised fast track justice. Think about the thousands of other cases which are not fast tracked. Why should the men in society fear law? Why should they change their perception and mind-set towards women? They know that nothing will happen to them. They are safe. If we want to change the mind-set, we need to empower women to come forward and get quick justice. Also, change the law so that just the statement of girl should be enough for the punishment. It should be the accused who have to prove that they did not do this. Such stringent law will invoke fear into male part of society, and this fear should turn into respect towards this new power of women. This will take time, but I think it will work.  I know it will work, and I also know that there will be a major misuse of such law by women. But I am willing to live with such misuse of law. Such misuse will increase the fear in society and trigger the mind-set change. Suddenly the women will have power, and slowly the men have to give her equal position due to fear. It will take time, but it will happen. 

Let me present a video from NDTV talk show, where the filmmaker of this documentary Leslee Udwin along with parents of Jyoti Singh Nirbhaya was present among other guests to discuss this documentary. 

I hope that our government lift the ban on this documentary, and take steps to change the mind-set of our society. This documentary is a mirror, and we should see our society’s reflection, so that we know where and what is wrong, and change that to right. 

I will end this article by asking for forgiveness to all the women of our society, for the act men do with them. Today is International Women's Day, but in our society, you are treated as a domestic animal, and that needs to change. I am sorry that I am not a women, and it is a shame that I belongs to the community who treat women so badly. I respect women, and I hope that we should see a time when every day is Women's day. 


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