“In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

Leslee Udwin gives more details from her interview with one of the men who raped and murdered Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012.

Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus, described to me every detail of what happened during and after the incident. While prosecutors say the men took turns to drive the bus, and all took part in the rape, Singh says he stayed at the wheel throughout.

Along with three of the other attackers, Singh is now appealing against his death sentence. In 16 hours of interviews, Singh showed no remorse and kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape, when everyone was at it.

“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.

Bewilderment? But she died. She died because they shoved a metal pipe up her and shredded her intestines. Is Mukesh Singh bewildered at the idea that he’s not allowed to murder people? Not even women? Does he think it’s just normal and conventional and fine to shove metal pipes up women and shred their intestines?

“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.”

People “had a right to teach them a lesson” he suggested – and he said the woman should have put up with it.

A right to teach them a lesson – by shoving metal pipes up them and shredding their intestines with the result that they die? He thinks random “people” have the right to do that to women merely because the women are outside after 8 p.m.?

I had the long and shocking list of injuries the young woman had sustained, read out to him. I tried, really hard, to search for a glimmer of regret. There was none.

I suppose John Gray would remind us that’s within the normal range for human beings. If so I would disagree. Casual brutality, yes, rape, yes, but lethal injuries not in war or revolution but just as part of a bus ride…no. Like Udwin, I find it horrifying that he has no regret and thinks he’s the one who’s hard done by.

My encounter with Singh and four other rapists left me feeling like my soul had been dipped in tar, and there were no cleaning agents in the world that could remove the indelible stain.

One of the men I interviewed, Gaurav, had raped a five-year-old girl. I spent three hours filming his interview as he recounted in explicit detail how he had muffled her screams with his big hand.

He was sitting throughout the interview and had a half-smile playing on his lips throughout – his nervousness in the presence of a camera, perhaps. At one point I asked him to tell me how tall she was. He stood up, and with his eerie half-smile indicated a height around his knees.

When I asked him how he could cross the line from imagining what he wanted to do, to actually doing it – given her height, her eyes, her screams – he looked at me as though I was crazy for even asking the question and said: “She was beggar girl. Her life was of no value.”

No brain-bleach strong enough…

I spoke to two lawyers who had defended the murderers of the 23-year-old student at their trial, and what they said was extremely revealing.

“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” said one of the lawyers, ML Sharma.

“You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

Wow; that’s blunt. Also reminiscent of the title of Taslima’s blog – No Country for Women.

This is another repeat, but it’s worth repeating:

The other lawyer, AP Singh, had said in a previous televised interview: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

He did not disown that comment when I put it to him. “This is my stand,” he said. “I still today stand on that reply.”

He tells the world he would murder his own daughter in front of their family, by setting her on fire, for unspecified “pre-marital activities.” He’s a lawyer and he’s telling the world he would murder his own daughter for an unimaginably trivial reason.

She ends on an up-note though.

Starting on the day after the rape, and for over a month, ordinary men and women came out on to the streets of India’s cities in unprecedented numbers to protest. They braved a freezing December and a ferocious government crackdown of water cannons, baton charges, and teargas shells. Their courage and determination to be heard was extraordinarily inspiring.

There was something momentous about their presence and perseverance – reminiscent to me of the crowds that had thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo – a gathering of civil society that demanded a conversation that was long overdue.

I find it hard to get inspired when the originating conditions are so horrendous.


  1. says

    People in India are wondering why this criminal is being given a spotlight, and what good would come out of it. I echo that sentiment in this case, despite generally being known to favor the stance of “all knowledge is worth having”. The documentary in question would be an instrument for pointing out ad infinitum how bad the situation of women is in India, but it will not be a teachable moment.

    Why? Because this despicable criminal is a product of his society, culture, tradition – a triumvirate that considers women to be chattel, property to be owned, toyed with and disposed of at will. The disgusting statements put out by this man’s defence lawyers stand a testament to that. As long as these three conditions don’t undergo a radical reform, this horrendous and shameful situation will not change – even if Mukesh Singh is eventually given the death penalty, which many people are clamoring for.

    Here is a link to a relatively recent study carried out amongst school- and college-age kids, and the results of the survey have been quite eye-opening about highly regressive attitudes extant in the Indian society. Just as an example:

    * 65% of college students disapprove of boys and girls from different religions meeting in public places.
    * 44% of college students “agree” that women have no choice but to accept a certain degree of violence.
    * 51% college students believe women must mainly take care of the household and bring up children.

    This highlights the need for a great deal of introspection as a society. But I am not hopeful that that is ever going to happen.

  2. karen says

    This kind of stuff infuriates me; how can any supposedly civilized human being suggest that a woman – any woman – should
    just “allow” herself to be raped, that she deserved to be beaten to death because she did not, and that she deserved to be
    raped because she had the temerity to be out in public in the evening?!? To glibly admit he’d burn his daughter to death if she did something he didn’t like? To feel no remorse for having participated in a crime of this magnitude? Yes, these men are human beings, but it seems to me they’re barely sentient. I’m also sick to death of people excusing this kind of behaviour because “it’s their culture”. “Culture” is often nothing more than an excuse to commit heinous acts while expecting there will be no punishment or criticism.

    It’s becoming more and more difficult not to fall into despair, never mind suppress ardent wish-fulfillment fantasies where these kinds of scumbags reap the rewards they so richly deserve.

  3. brucegee1962 says


    In every culture today where women are considered full persons (maybe not at full pay, but) with a full range of options that men have available to them, if you go back far enough, you will arrive at an earlier time when women were viewed as chattel.

    Here in the US, we have seen in just fifty years how gay people have gone from being considered de facto criminals who could be harassed and abused by the police at will, to being on the verge of gaining a full set of the rights available to all citizens.

    Please don’t give up on this or any culture. Change may seem agonizingly slow sometimes, but it does happen — and in the internet age, sometimes it happens swifter than anyone might imagine.

    It doesn’t happen through people changing their minds. It happens when an older generation dies and a newer one takes its place. It isn’t hard to teach young people to obtain a sense of justice.

  4. says

    brucegee1962 @4

    I’m not really ready to cut these people any slack at all. Yes, go back 50, 100, 150 years, and much of western civilization wasn’t a whole lot better (although, I’m hard-pressed to believe The Founders would have accepted this kind of behavior).

    But this is the 21st century. I type IMs to people in India many times per day as part of my work (software development). Those people — the ones I talk to — are educated, perhaps religious, but aware that there’s a whole world out there thinking these practices are worse than barbaric.

    If the educated and relatively moneyed class in India can’t stop these practices, at least in the urban areas, then why are we welcoming them into the US by the tens-of-thousands every year?


  5. brucegee1962 says

    I’m not trying to cut these people any slack. But I also don’t think it’s helpful to see them as fundamentally “other” than ourselves. I started to type “monsters” instead of “people” in the first sentence, because what they did was monstrous, but they really are people, not monsters — people who have allowed their minds to be poisoned to a sickening degree, to be sure.

    As Joseph Conrad says at the beginning of Heart of Darkness, it’s always good to start off by reminding ourselves that “This too was once one of the dark places of the earth.”

  6. karmacat says

    The rapists’ statements are similar to what MRAs but is an extreme and especially horrible way. The want to shut women up and make sure women are home to feed them and cater to them. Hate is often about fear. They are afraid of women being more successful, of women not needing them. On top of that is the caste system which allows people view other people as less than.

    In Europe, the Black Plague ended serfdom. Because so many people died, workers became more valuable and they were able to demand to be paid. But it is a terrible thought to think that something so terrible has to happen for people to value others

  7. Kilian Hekhuis says

    Horrible crimes, no regret, no remorse. Though the culture has likely played a big role, these people sound like genuine psychopaths. Perhaps I’m thinking too high of humanity, but I don’t think that, by and large, “ordinary”, mentally sane, people could commit such crimes, and be so bland about them.

  8. mildlymagnificent says

    Hate is often about fear. They are afraid of women being more successful, of women not needing them.

    Remember Margaret Atwood.

    Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
    Women are afraid that men might kill them.

    As true now as when she said it. Even more so in India (and too many other places).

  9. sonofrojblake says

    @Kilian, 8: no diagnoses by internet, please. It would be nice to think of these people as mentally disordered, and I think in the case of the one referred to as Gaurav you *may* be right. There’s really not enough information about them available to make that kind of determination, though.

  10. leni says

    …Singh is now appealing against his death sentence.

    How nice that this piece of shit gets the benefit of an appeal. He admits to doing it. He is not remorseful. He says she deserved it. Why are they even bothering?

  11. Nini Thomas says

    “India’s daughter” is being banned, great job by our government, kudos!!! Looks like this has invoked more furor than the rape case. The views expressed by the rapist is not new, these views have been expressed by so many people across India. This just goes on to prove that our so called culture is more worried about Log kya kahenge (What will others say!!).
    We have had so many candle light marches, but it has failed to light our hearts and remove the darkness in our mindsets.
    Our biggest achievement as a country was the successful mission to Mars, I hope that this mission helps us get a better insight on how men think and feel… maybe next mission should be to Venus to know where things are going wrong for women.
    Even today I have seen mothers telling their little boys as young as 5 years, “Boys don’t cry, Boys don’t cook” and the words of wisdom for girls are “ Don’t play with boys, don’t talk loudly, help your mothers in the kitchen etc.”
    I don’t have anything against girls entering kitchen, or talking softly, but are we not engraving this gender divide in our families by saying so…
    Even today if a women is married off, and she has to by all means reduce the amount of time she spends with her family, after all is no longer belongs to that house. I know women who say that they don’t like going to house town for vacation because, they need to spend more time in husband’s house, and if they wish to go to their house, it’s a favor and not a right.
    Women should not express opinion on any topic when men are talking. It is a sad truth that working women are not as liberated as it looks, they shoulder dual responsibility; work at office, come back and do the work as a housewife, mother and wife. In case she can’t handle it, she can quit the job and sit at home, after all her salary is supplementary and not so important. When will we understand that job does not always boil down to money, it much more…but when will we understand.
    Yes I do have lot of fury within me, but it’s for me to decide how I vent it out, either I burn the whole world, or mold the next generation by inculcating better values in my children. Fathers, respect your wife… Respect other women in your life – mother, sister etc…. Mothers, be an example to your daughter, and show to your son’s how they should treat women.
    Women time to rise and say I don’t want to be treated like a down trodden, I don’t need reservations, I will rise and stand, yes its right to raise your voice, we don’t need others to talk for us, we need to dust off lot of age old taboos, and open our minds and say “No one can screw our lives, we have control over it “!!!!
    Indian culture has no place for women is a statement which encapsulates the views of how women are looked at….

  12. Avani says

    Being a 15 year old girl, I wonder how I’m gonna earn success in this country.
    I can’t wear what I want, can’t say what I want, can’t do what I want? Go out and fear that I’m perhaps never gonna return home? How am I to attend classes, tutions, office? What if I’m assaulted on the way?
    This will be the only reason I might as well end up being a nobody, an unsuccessful, unemployed, woman, waiting to get married and change diapers for the rest of my life.
    Why is it this way?
    Why do I constantly wish that I was a boy?
    Only God, can answer these questions of mine. But I’m not pure enough for him to answer me. Nobody is. Including men. Transgenders. Everyone.
    What is the purpose of life? How will the rapists understand? I don’t understand.


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