In my last post I discussed the various factors I believe contributed to the conviction of the rapists in the case of Jyoti Singh. If you haven’t had a chance to read the post, don’t fret, here is the link https://thesocialparalegal.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/indias-daughter-documentary-thoughts/ This post will examine why the documentary was banned and how Jyoti’s story and India’s Daughter has impacted India.
India’s Daughter had generated significant controversy on an international platform prior to its release. Many were outraged by articles that shared the rapist’s victim-blaming and his confusion regarding what he had done wrong. Although India’s Daughter was to release internationally on March 8th, it was banned in India prior to its release. This alone should demonstrate how the Indian government is addressing this issue.
Why was the documentary banned?
There are many theories as to why the documentary was banned but one can only speculate. I believe that the Indian government banned the documentary because it was worried about India’s national and international image. Furthermore, the Indian government did not want to open itself up to the risk of a lash back from the Indian people. Following Jyoti’s death, there riots and protests throughout India for approximately a month. The public outrage eventually compelled the Indian government to take action by updating the law and fast tracking Jyoti’s case.
What would Indian citizens and non- Indian citizen’s people think of a country where a rapist is arguing that it is more the woman’s fault if she is raped than the rapists? What would the international community think of defense lawyers suggesting that a girl is like a flower and if you put her in a gutter (a metaphor for allowing her out in the evening without a male relative chaperone) she is bound to be raped? The most frightening part is that these comments reflect what the majority of men in Indian think, especially the less educated.
Victim blaming isn’t an issue that is unique to India, rather it is a worldwide phenomenon. However, we rarely hear defense attorneys defend their clients by arguing that they would burn their daughter alive if she was raped. Yes, you read that right, one of the defence attorneys proudly made this disgusting statement in the documentary.
The rapist blatantly states that “women are not viewed as humans”. How does a woman seek justice when she isn’t considered a human? Simple, she doesn’t. Women within India are not oblivious to the fact that they are worse off than second class citizens when it comes to the legal system. Hence, in my opinion banning the documentary in India was completely futile. If the international community is aware of the condition of India, how can individuals residing in India not be?
Although the documentary was banned, there was still uproar within the Indian community. Many celebrities including Kirron Kher and Javed Akhtar took the matter to court and voiced why they believed why the documentary should be released in India. Their requests were denied but their arguments were valid and powerful. Mrs. Kher made a statement arguing that if most men in India think like the rapists in the documentary, then Indian men need to watch the documentary in order to understand that their mentality is wrong and unacceptable. In essence, you can’t create change through ignorance; you must acknowledge the issue before you can tackle it.
Since the gang rape, the government has expanded the definition of rape and changed it to sexual assault. The India Criminal Code now acknowledges different types of sexual assault. However, there is still a long way to go. For instance, marital rape is not illegal and does not hold any legal consequences unless the child bride is under 15 years of age. Moreover, the Indian government claims to be fast-tracking rape cases within courts in order to allow victims to attain justice sooner. Conversely, there are less rape centres in India than there were before Jyoti was raped. Every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India, this disturbing reality has not changed.
What’s the “positive” side in all this?
More rapes are being reported. Yes, this is a positive outcome. Women and men (particularly gay men) are beginning to come forth with their rape stories and are seeking legal justice. The rape rate most likely has not increased but individuals are feeling more confident and secure when reporting rape. Furthermore, many victims are going public via media outlets to publicly shame their rapist(s). By naming their rapists, victims are removing the offenders’ safety net of silence that most rapists count on in order to maintain a respectable image and hide from their actions. This is definitely a step in the right direction though there is a long way to go.
How do I think India can really make a change? Make sure to read part 3.
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