Yvonne Roberts writes in The Observer on Leslee Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter.
Warning: some of this is grim.
India’s Daughter is broadcast on BBC4 next Sunday, International Women’s Day, and simultaneously shown in seven other countries including India, Switzerland, Norway and Canada. On Monday 9 March, actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep will attend a screening in New York, launching a worldwide India’s Daughter campaign against gender inequality and sexual violence against women and girls. It begins by 20 million pupils viewing the film and taking part in workshops in Maharashtra, a state that includes Mumbai.
…What is writ very large in India’s Daughter, but camouflaged in other countries where equality is more strongly embedded in law, is the low value placed on females and the determination of some men, educated as well as the impoverished, to keep women padlocked to the past.
“We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” says one man in Udwin’s film. What is shocking is that he is ML Sharma, defence lawyer for the men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder. A second defence lawyer, AP Singh, says if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”.
It is shocking. John Gray would probably say it’s fatuous to be shocked, but there it is – I am.
The eloquent words of Mukesh Singh are shared again. We can’t read them too often.
“You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at night. A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy … about 20% of girls are good.” Jyoti fought back. Singh says: “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.
“The 15 or 20 minutes of the incident, I was driving the bus. The girl was screaming, ‘Help me, help me.’ The juvenile put his hand in her and pulled out something. It was her intestines …We dragged her to the front of the bus and threw her out.”
That’s a new detail, about reaching in and pulling out her intestines. I didn’t realize they’d gone to that much trouble.
The government, to quell the protest that followed her death, set up a three-member commission, headed by JS Verma, a former chief justice of India and human rights lawyer. It received 80,000 responses and delivered a landmark 630-page report in 29 days, calling for the law concerning sexual violence to be modernised, removing terms such as “intent to outrage her modesty”. New legislation failed to fulfil many of the report’s recommendations. Since then, the number of reported rapes has increased hugely, as more women come forward.
I wonder what the conviction rate is…