A few weeks ago there was considerable buzz revolving around the controversial documentary “India’s Daughter”. The documentary outlines the events surrounding the December 2012 gang rape of Jyoti Singh. For those of you who are not familiar with Jyoti’s story here is a quick recap.
Jyoti came from a low socio-economic background but had great dreams. She dreamt of becoming a physiotherapist. Her parents assisted her in completing this dream by selling some of their ancestral land to help pay for her education. Along with pursuing a medical education, Jyoti was working part- time at a call centre to help pay for her education. One evening she decided to watch a movie with a male friend and to take a private bus back home (accompanied by her male friend). What occurred next was despicable.
Her male friend was cornered by six men in the bus who had rented the private bus to cause havoc. The men began interrogating her male friend as to why he was out with a girl in the middle of the night. Jyoti’s friend responded as any man would; “what is it to you?”. The six men then beat him to fatal state and raped Jyoti. What made the rape unlike any other is that there was metal rod forced in Jyoti’s vagina and her insides (assumed to be her intestines) were pulled out by the rapists’ hand.
Jyoti fought back fiercely. According to her rapists, fighting back was her biggest mistake as she should have endured the rape and felt shame. Jyoti and her male friend were then thrown on to the side of the road, completely naked. No one stopped to help with the exception of one man. A man had called the ambulance and went to the hotel across the street to retrieve bed sheets to cover their bodies.
“India’s Daughter” focuses on one of the six convicted men, Murkesh Singh and the families of his accomplices. I will not go into further detail regarding the documentary as I believe everyone should watch it. I want to warn you, it is disturbing to watch and I am not one to be easily disturbed. The mentality of these men is so bone chilling that it frightens you to realize that such men exist in this world.
Throughout the documentary, Murkesh explains he is confused as to why him and his friends are being punished for something that occurs daily in India, (in fact every 20 minutes), when others are getting away with it.
I believe there are multiple factors as to why these men in particular were brought to “justice”.
First and foremost, the brutality of the gang rape is unprecedented. This gang rape sent shock waves throughout India from medical students (men and women alike) to established celebrities. People wanted change and justice.
Secondly, we cannot downplay the impact of media pressure. Once the media caught whiff of the tragedy, the pressure was on government officials to act fast before the people lost complete faith in the government. There were riots, protests and public outrage on every television that could no longer be ignored. The people had spoken and they asked for the death penalty for the rapists.
The government tried to silence the voices of the people by any means including: using fire hoses on protesters, abusing and arresting protestors and putting up physical barriers to deter protestors from protesting near public buildings. Despite the governments best efforts, thousands of people continued to protest day after day for about 30 days straight.
Third, the rapists do not come from wealthy backgrounds. If these men were the sons of politicians or wealthy families, I’m confident they would not have been tried to the full extent of the law. Call me pessimistic if you must, but I truly believe it to be the truth.
Fourth, I believe India is in the middle of a revolution, a slow paced and much delayed revolution but nonetheless a revolution. Women are gaining access to education; with education comes empowerment. Women no longer feel the need to be silent and ashamed of being victims of sexual assault. After Jyoti’s story took over the news, countless women took a stand and named their abusers openly via the media to seek justice.
What does this mean for India? How has India changed since? Make sure to read the second part of my article next week.