This is an article that is mainly going to be discussing and evaluating some of the comments made in the popular, recent CBS talk show featuring Barkha Dutt and Leslee Udwin. Now, in my view, this is basically a debate between two schools of thought. An issue of a persecution complex that is said to have developed with women in India seems to be the core fundamental issue that underlies this conflict. Let’s look at both standpoints, one by one.
Here’s the video that I am talking about –
(quote unquote) Standpoint 1: “The BBC film India’s daughter was banned in India because it could incite violence against women and also because it defames India internationally”
1. Is the government’s concern that the propagation of the video could incite violence against women warranted ?
Possibly. I don’t know if it’s a lot, but sick people (possibly from having troubled pasts) like rapists have been getting away with heinous crimes in the past. So, as long as we do not have an exact estimate on the number of people that share the beliefs of the rapist in the video, it might in fact be dangerous to let the video spread. Indians (including myself), however, are of the view that men capable of such acts do constitute a minority in India.
2. The video is packaged so as to make it seem like the rapists in the video are largely representative of Indian men.
I can see how the video should be subject to a fierce slag for this. It does expose in detail the mindset of the rapist and other societal factors that may have influenced his train of thought. This has been done a little aggressively that it brings about a false characterization of Indian men as being hostile towards women in general. It also implants the notion of a “rape culture” in India. Barkha’s responses to Leslee in the video were mainly targeted at addressing this mischaracterization. Also, the already palpable cruelty in the act was unnecessarily amplified by giving undue emphasis to Nirbhay’s struggles before she became a doctor in the video. That bit had nothing to do with the problems contained within the nature of the crime committed against her.
3. The justice system has been shown in poor light.
Again, the attorney handling this case did allegedly make some insensitive remarks against women, once going as far as saying There is no place for women in Indian society.
4. As an extension of point number 2, the video makes it look like Indian men do not understand that violating women is wrong.
The rapist made some appalling comments and went out of his way to justify his actions. He may indeed have thought that he was giving Nirbhay what she “deserved”.
5. The (leaked) video omitted statistical facts about sexual violence elsewhere in the globe, making it seem like India is the de jure sexual violence and gender discrimination capital of the world.
It ticked Barkha off when the anchor said, “I have been to India and I did think to myself that I had no idea India was so unsafe for women.” Barkha pointed out that she had a problem with this kind of stereotyping and that while she was not being defensive, the facts were that in the US and in the UK the instances of sexual violence were much higher than in India. Leslee, however, clarified in the interview that the original did have the stats.
Okay, by this point it probably reads like Leslee’s video had absolutely no constructive, or valid insights about the state of Indian men, the Indian society and the position of women in the Indian society. But there is some truth in Leslee’s hypothesis that The Indian society has to be held responsible and that this is a huge platform for the proliferation of more films and documentaries speaking out against the regression that Indian women face.
1. Many Indian women are seen as belonging to the kitchen. Indians, you know this is true.
Many Indian men think that after they get back from a long, hard day at work the rightfully deserve a well cooked meal from their wife. A women’s culture is almost wholly judged by how well fed she keeps her family (her husband, kids, in laws).
2. Indian women are largely viewed as uncultured if they do not dress “modestly”.
The truth about this is blatantly obvious to anybody that has a clue, that has ever lived in India. It needed to be stated for our international readers.
3. Many Indian women are taught to believe that even light hearted jokes about sexual matters with men make them come off as classless and “slutty”.
Mind you, there are a fair few Indian men that do their bit to enforce this ideal as well. Going out after dark is also a stigma, the reasons for which are more enigmatic than other regressive ideals.
4. In many households, women are not given the freedom to express the natural changes that their bodies go through.
And yes, that does include mensuration.
5. So, is India really all bad for women? Do the majority of Indian men not appreciate a woman’s gifts, or treat women as inferior and objects of the kitchen or pleasure?
I want to start by saying that the intent behind this documentary film has to be appreciated. The attack on Leslee is uncalled for. As a woman she felt the physical and mental destruction that nirbhay underwent. There is a lot that this video exposes, a lot of truths that needed to be resounded to the Indian public, to mobilize the Indian public into taking action or a stand against sexual violence.
That said, Leslee’s film fails to capture the complete story. This was a crime like any other. A cruel, sick act of gangrape and murder. When Indian men like their women to be a certain way (dress modestly, “behave” around strange men, whatever it may be), they’re not thinking that they will rape or kill them if they don’t comply. These men look at it as the preservation of Indian culture, not as the snatching away of a woman’s independence, or as diminishing a woman’s place in society or her role in the family. It’s a simple matter of preference, which they are entitled to. I have known men with such preferences to talk to their women about not liking certain dressing or behavioral habits. It is very much an adult conversation that usually ends in a compromise and the compromise works both ways. These cultural ideals cannot be stated as reason for an act of sexual violence in India. The rapists in the video were sick people (possibly mentally ill). Sick people are going to be brazen in any area of crime. Just like it’s not as simple as stating hate or discontent to be the reason for murder of individuals, it is not as simple as saying that the ideals that the Indian society imprints have influenced the “rape culture”.
This was a crime that was carried out by murderous lunatics, like it would be in any other field of crime. Unlike the issue of gender discrimination, the issue of sexual violence in India is simply not as subjective as people would like to believe. There is, however, a lot of regression that women face. But men should not be attacked outright on those grounds. What is needed is the design of a platform that would allow an objective interaction so as to gradually make men see that their women do not like it when they impose their conservative ideals on them. Because men who impose these conservative ideals are not bad people and they sincerely love their better halves. They just need a patient, proper explanation. Hell, some women in India even think it’s cute that their men are like that.