As you may know, International Women’s Day is coming up and while this is an important time to celebrate women’s achievements, it’s also crucial that we don’t forget there is still a big hurdle ahead when it comes to gaining greater gender equality around the world. Lucky for us, we live in a society where female education is an unquestionable right, where we can stand up and voice our opinions, where we can leave the house without a chaperone, where we can ‘date’ and where we can be seen with men without being branded a ‘disgrace’ or ‘spoiled goods’. The same could not have been said for Jyoti Singh, the subject of “India’s Daughter”, Leslee Udwin’s recently released BBC documentary on the brutal gang-rape of the medical student in Delhi back in 2012.
It’s a dark and difficult documentary to watch, not only because it’s a horrific story to tell, but because it highlights the huge issue of gender violence and the feminist movement in a largely patriarchal society. It does however touch on it somewhat lightly in my personal opinion, but that’s by the by. Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists who was interviewed, spoke of the events that fateful December night, without showing even the slightest hint of regret or remorse, reiterating that a “good girl” would not have been out at night. It would be easy to explain, but by no means justify, the actions of these six reprehensible men as the product of poor education, centuries of patriarchy, poverty and violence towards women. However, what really stuck with me from this documentary were the interviews with defense lawyers A.P. Singh and M.L. Sharma. It was sickening watching these supposedly educated men maintain that they would burn their own daughter were she to ‘disgrace herself’ by having any contact with men, who compared women to delicate flowers that needed protection from male ‘strong thorns’. Who said that women are diamonds that must be hidden, otherwise ‘a dog would come along and try to take [them]’. Who stated that in their culture ‘there is no space for a woman’. Is your blood boiling yet?
This documentary begs the question, is Jyoti Singh really “India’s Daughter”? It would seem to me that Jyoti and her family were failed by society – a society that didn’t respect her and her gender. A society that failed to provide her with education. A society that didn’t require her family to sacrifice everything and fight tooth and nail for justice. A society that failed to protect her when she stood up for herself and finally, a society that even failed to ensure her a safe journey home from the cinema.The heavy irony is that the rapists, defense lawyers, sexist policy makers, abusive husbands and violent men are also India’s sons. And so long as this patriarchal mentality exists, women continue to be at risk of being downtrodden, taken advantage of, abused, raped and murdered. So please, ladies (and gents), as we approach International Women’s Day, I implore you to watch this documentary. Despite its sensitive subject matter, it draws attention to a serious problem that is happening all around the world, and it has to stop.
BBC have released “India’s Daughter” on YouTube. Please be aware this film contains sensitive and graphic subject matter.