Delhi rape documentary: Would Indians believe rapist's views?

The Indian government banned a film about a brutal 2012 rape and murder as potentially harmful to women.

Altaf Qadri/AP
British filmmaker Leslee Udwin addresses a press conference on her documentary film 'India's Daughter,' about the 2012 gang rape in a moving bus, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday. The film is to be shown on March 8, International Women's Day, in India, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries.

“About 20 percent of girls are good … housekeeping and housework are for girls.”

The quote from a BBC documentary on a notorious 2012 New Delhi gang rape and murder was so inflammatory to Indian officials that they banned the film – and felt they had plenty of public support for doing so. The broadcast minister said that “India’s Daughters,” by UK director Leslee Udwin, herself a rape victim, “appears to encourage and incite violence against women.”

The ban ostensibly revolves around crude death row statements made by rapist Mukesh Singh. Mr. Singh is quoted as saying that women like his victim, a 23-year old medical student, "should just be silent and allow the rape."

"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night," he told the BBC. "A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal.”

Indian authorities argue the content of Mr. Singh’s statements will be taken literally by many ordinary Indians and could possibly legitimate them and bring harm. Authorities not only banned the India broadcast of the documentary and its use for any commercial purpose but are also seeking, according to Delhi lawmakers, to try and ban it in other parts of the world.

"The media is likely to be seen as a voice for the perpetrator of such crimes by providing him a medium to communicate his views on the matter repeatedly," according to a government statement.

Defenders of “India’s Daughters” say Singh’s statements are included simply to show how wrong they are, and to act as a form of catharsis.

The 2012 rape case itself appeared to be a form of catharsis in the Indian capital, bringing hundreds of thousands on the streets in protest and becoming a rallying cry.

The crime took place when the victim and a male friend mistakenly got on a private bus on Dec. 16 that was being driven by a gang of six young men explicitly for the purpose of finding and raping a female, according to Delhi police. The young man was knocked unconscious and the woman was violently raped and bludgeoned. She died days later.

Reuters today notes that Ms. Udwin:  

worked on the film for two years and was inspired to make it after watching thousands of people take to the streets across India in protest over the 2012 rape, said it would be released worldwide as planned.

India toughened its anti-rape laws in response to the outcry following the 2012 attack, but a rape is still reported on average every 21 minutes in India, and acid attacks, domestic violence and molestation are common.

The ban comes just as the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making a series of statements about female empowerment. In recent months, ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit, he spoke about justice for females, and tread into sensitive ground on female infanticide, or the killing of fetuses that are not boys.

As The Christian Science Monitor wrote in a magazine editorial on Feb. 9:

As fetus imaging technology has advanced, India has lost more than 12 million girls, according to a 2011 British study. … Every day in India the total number of female fetuses aborted along with newborn girls killed is estimated to be 2,000.

“We cannot call ourselves citizens of [the] 21st century by practicing such a crime, and we by our mind-sets belong to [the] 18th century when daughters were killed soon after they were born,” Mr. Modi said. 

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