Rape film opens fresh debate - and wounds

Rape film opens fresh debate - and wounds
Activists demanding the death penalty for a gang-rapist in Kolkata. In the banned film India’s Daughter by Ms Leslee Udwin, convicted rapist Mukesh Singh says people have a right to teach women who stay out at night “a lesson”, and his victim should just have put up with the sexual assault.

Those who watched India's Daughter, the BBC documentary that India banned, have called it harrowing and chilling but also mediocre and overly simplistic.

The BBC said the film, which includes an interview with a convicted rapist, sought to explore the crime and the cultural context in which it was committed.

It was slated for screening today to mark International Women's Day.

But after India's ban, the BBC brought it forward to be aired last Wednesday.

Thousands watched it online in India.

But even more intense than a debate about what the documentary showed was the debate on whether the documentary should have been banned or not, triggered by the government's haste in seeking to prevent its screening.

In the documentary, Ms Leslee Udwin, the film's director who is herself a rape victim, interviews Mukesh Singh, one of the four men sentenced to death for the brutal gang-rape and murder of a young woman that shocked the world and sparked protests all over India.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who was attacked as she was returning home after a movie with a friend, died of severe internal injuries in a Singapore hospital in 2012.

Singh, who drove the bus in which she was raped and is appealing against his death sentence, shows no remorse on camera.

He says that a "decent girl" would not be out at night and that women were more responsible for rape than men. He further says a woman's place is in the house.

Another man interviewed in the film says he would brutally punish his daughter or sister if she engaged in premarital activities.

Yet another man bizarrely compares women to exposed sweets left by the roadside for dogs to attack and insists no respectable lady could get raped.

What's even more shocking than the derogatory content of these statements: They were made by two defence lawyers, A.P. Singh and M.L. Sharma, both educated men.

When Home Minister Rajnath Singh obtained a court order banning the screening last Tuesday, he said the government wanted to protect the dignity of women, including that of the dead victim.

Delhi police said they feared that screening the film could "create a situation of tension and fear among women in the society", and a ban on the documentary was necessary "in the interest of justice and maintenance of public order".

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry put forward a legal reason for preventing the telecast - the case was sub judice and the film could be construed as interference with the due process of law.

Others said it would give a convicted rapist a soapbox.

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