06 March, 2015

India's Daughter

India's Daughter

India's Daughter.
This documentary by Leslee Udwin is making the headlines all over – for a whole range of reasons.  The most important one being that this documentary is about the mindset which has prevailed in patriarchal societies like India for eons now and how this, in turn, becomes the root cause of many an evil towards women in society.  It is a known fact that these mindsets towards subjugation of women exist even today, even among the so called ‘educated’ community in India.  India’s Daughter serves not just to drive those attitudes home, it actually brings to the fore, focuses attention on why women are still subjugated, dominated and suppressed in an India which is supposed to be ‘fast developing’.
The government of India, for reasons or excuses best known to it, have banned the screening of this documentary in India.  My question remains the same – Why ?  I guess this question will have a whole plethora of answers ranging from “it shows our country in bad light” to “this sends out the wrong message to people because the convicted rapist has been interviewed in this documentary”. 
If the reason is the former, it is not the documentary that shows our country in bad light.  It is the fact that crimes against women are still rampant and worse still, action taken is far and few, if at all any.  That is cause for concern, not the fact that the flaws are being openly portrayed in this documentary.  If it is the latter, judging by the opinions of some of the other people who have been featured in this documentary, this mindset of women not having any say in anything worthwhile, women being treated as doormats, women being held responsible for crimes against them, is more widely prevalent than what people would like to believe, think and assume.  Therein lies the monster and it is this monster whose face has been unmasked, in Leslie Udwin’s documentary.
This documentary makes an attempt to showcase women’s rights (or the lack of it) all over the world.  There are so many countries where women suffer on account of repression, they still continue to live under the shade of inferiority that patriarchy has shadowed them with, many women still continue to be repressed and victimized on a regular basis, just by virtue of being a woman.
There have been quite a few critics of the documentary who have pointed out to the fact that the research done when producing this documentary, leaves a lot to be desired.  That may be true but just for a moment, let’s look beyond the nitty gritties and focus on the matter that this is trying to bring to the fore. 
That highhanded male attitude that patriarchy bestows on male members of its society is so very evident, especially in the clips where the convicted rapist has been interviewed and worse still, when the defendents’ scum lawyers open their mouths and spew filth.  It was unnerving, hair raising and extremely infuriating watching those interview clips.  When the convicted rapist talks of his brother (the main perpetrator in this heinous incident), the feeling I got was one of adulation, of the fact that he looks up to his big brother as the person ‘who could do anything’.  There is a definite element of hero worship when he talks about his brother having ‘done such things before too’.
The almost amused look that flickers across his face, the complete lack of remorse and those blank eyes stand testament to male attitudes that persist, that are very much alive and kicking in the Indian society, even today.  There is not a sign of regret or repentance over what they did, neither does there appear to be any element of shame.  Instead, he does what many men like him have been taught to do, by society and by their parents, through the years – point the finger elsewhere and blame someone else.  He nonchalantly blames the girl for what happened with her when he says ‘they had to teach her a lesson because she fought back’.  His parents, when interviewed, point fingers at the other four accused in the gang rape.  In their minds, both their sons were not to blame. 
What is most dismaying, most disturbing about the whole documentary is a truth that people already know.  Atleast people from India do, very well.  It is how women, how feminity is viewed in India by a whole spectrum of males, ranging from the uneducated rapist to the so called ‘educated’ lawyers.  It is the unapologetic misogyny, the unrepentant objectification of women that this documentary unmasks.   This predominant male mindset is prevalent only too widely. 
Another thing that the documentary brings to the fore is the fact that in the minds of these men who have been convicted and in prison right now, nothing has changed.  I cringe at the knowledge that the juvenile who was just as responsible as the many others, in gang raping Jyoti Singh, will walk free in December 2015.  This animal will roam the streets once again and can our legal system, which chose to give him a three year sentence on the basis of him being underage, vouch for the fact that this sentence has been deterrent enough to prevent him from doing something as heinous, all over again ?  No, it can’t.  It exposes another one of those many loopholes in the Indian legal system wherein someone who gang raped and murdered a woman gets away, simply because he is not eighteen yet.  Our prison systems do nothing either.  Is he going to walk out of his juvenile prison, a changed man ?  I sincerely doubt it.  So then, on what basis are our courts letting him walk out, a free man, come December 2015 ?
The heart goes out to her parents and to me, they stand as shining examples of dignified courage.  There is helplessness writ large on their faces.  Definitely yes and that is totally gut wrenching.  It is that powerlessness, that vulnerability that underscores why, as of today, there is a definite limit, a ceiling to what one can do in the face of literally every crime that takes place against women in our country today – right from domestic violence to rape.   Yet, through their helplessness, their pain, they come across as symbols of hope – hope that there would be more parents like  them who are prepared to stand up to their families, hope that there would be more parents like them who would be broadminded enough to defy societal rules in educating their daughters, hope that there would be more parents like them who know and recognise their daughters’ strengths and appreciate them.
The Indian government has pretty much done the people of its nation, the women of its nation and feminity in general, a disfavour by banning the screening of this documentary in India.  They are doing exactly what people have been doing in the past – trying to push the problem into the deepest recesses of a dark drawer in the hope that it blows off and the whole thing just disappears, goes away. 
Simply put, our society needs to take a long, good look at the mirror that has been placed in front of its face and confront the issues that need confronting, not push them away into the deepest recesses of the nearest closet in the hope that the issues disappear.
The documentary does not sermonise, nor does it show the country or its people in bad light, nor does it seek to glorify the directors and the producers.  Very simply put, it unmasks, it unveils, it bares, it reveals all over again, the picture of women in India, shackled by the chains of a patriarchal society.  It debunks the myth that things have indeed changed and more importantly it hits home on the fact that there needs to be a beginning somewhere, a start towards changing the notations, the assumptions, the mindsets in people, towards womanhood and feminity. 

1 voice(s) said so:

non compos mentis said...

Sorry, I accidently posted the previous comment from an old blog I have abandoned now. Here it goes again. Nicely written. But for me, the documentary was a depiction of how India as a nation condemns rape and violence. I

do not believe advocates M L Sharma, A P Singh or the rapists are the voice of India. The brave

heart Jyothi Singh who fought to survive the brutal attacks just long enough to point out her

violators, the parents who speak proudly of their daughter and the thousands of Indians who

stood up for Jyothi are the voices of India. India's social fabric is not tarnished by foreign media

or film makers. We are responsible for the damage we cause. We no more feel proud of a culture

which worships women and which upholds the legacy of Rani Laxmi Bhai, Sarojini Naidu,

Begum Hazrat Mahal and the many other highly competent Indian women leaders. Instead,

majority of us obediently devour the fallacy that our culture places women inferior to men.

Violence against women is a global pandemic, yet, what is an Indian's contribution to make

Indian crimes more alluring to the rest of the world is the more pertinent question in my mind. Are we women speaking loud enough to be heard by our own men or are we just whispering our woes into foreign ears.