India Bans Film About Notorious Rape

ID-rape-620-March2015 Convicted rapist Mukesh Singh (center) is taken to the High Court in New Delhi, Sept. 24, 2013.

India’s decision to ban a documentary about a notorious rape case is spurring debate about free speech, rampant violence toward women and widespread misogyny in the world’s most populous democracy.

The Indian government Thursday (March 5) said it would act against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for ignoring a court order that barred the airing of “India’s Daughter,” a British-made film, the Associated Press reported.

The film explores the fatal gang-rape of a woman aboard a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. The case electrified the nation and led to tougher laws against sexual violence.

The BBC broadcast the documentary in Britain on Wednesday, but Indian viewers could not see it on the network's website, according to AP.

The government now is asking YouTube to block the film online, Reuters and AFP reported Thursday.
In addition, India is trying to stop the film from being aired elsewhere abroad.

“We can ban the documentary in India but there is a conspiracy to defame India and the documentary can be telecast outside. We will also be examining what should be done,” the Press Trust of India quoted Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu as saying.

‘A girl is far more responsible’

The documentary features an interview with Mukesh Singh, one of four men sentenced to die for the rape and murder of the 23-year-old victim.

The convict’s comments have angered Indian feminists. Singh effectively blames the victim for her own rape and death, his critics charge.

"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” Singh says in the film, according to AP. "A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. ... Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes."

The ban was necessary, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, because Mukesh Singh's comments were "highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women," AFP reported.

Separately, the Delhi Police department issued a statement saying the BBC’s decision to air the film had "created a situation of tension and fear amongst women in the society," AP reported. Therefore, a ban was needed "in the interest of justice and maintenance of public order."

But prominent Indian women are questioning whether the government is truly concerned about female welfare.

"I am very shocked at the decision to ban the video. Rapes happen every single day and this has to be exposed. The documentary didn't defend the rape. In fact it showed the mindset of the rapist," AP quoted Congress party lawmaker Priya Dutt as saying.

A common occurrence

Despite the tougher laws against gender-based violence, rapes remain a frequent problem nationwide.

And it is a problem that stems from deep-seated misogyny in Indian society, according to a new survey published by the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA), a child welfare group based in Bangalore, India, Reuters reported Thursday.

A sexist culture partly results from the failure of the nation’s schools to educate children to embrace the principle of gender equality, the CMCA says.

The survey of 10,500 high school and college students in 11 cities across India found that more than four in 10 believed that "women have no choice but to accept a certain degree of violence," Reuters reported.

"A large number of young people having such undesirable attitudes towards violence against women –including girls themselves – is alarming," CMCA Director and Co-Founder Manjunath Sadashiva told Reuters.

"These are school-going and college-going students – they're not uneducated or non-literate people. These are people from cities, not even rural areas ... These attitudes that students are displaying are potentially what they are absorbing from society at large, from their families."


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