HUFFINGTON POST

Banned In India, This Powerful Film On Rape Will Show In U.S. Theaters

"The real reason for the ban, was misplaced national pride and sensitivity to national image."
"India's Daughter" has its U.S. theatrical debut in New York and Los Angeles this month.
"India's Daughter" has its U.S. theatrical debut in New York and Los Angeles this month.

When India's Daughter, a documentary on the horrific gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh was released earlier this year, the Indian government banned the film just days before it was set to air.

Activists and members of the media around the world condemned the decision, arguing the film offered an important look at sexual violence in India.

While the outrage failed to pressure India into overturning the ban, the film has been broadcast internationally, to wide acclaim, and it will show in U.S. theaters this month.

"India's Daughter" tells the story of Jyoti Singh, a young medical student who died after being gang raped and brutally attacked with an iron rod on a New Delhi bus, while returning home from watching a film with a male friend in 2012. Singh's killing sparked widespread protests across the country and four men were sentenced to death for the crime. 

One of Singh's convicted rapists, Mukesh Singh, is featured in the documentary in which he blames the victim for the rape and killing. He claims the attack, which was carried out at 8:30 p.m., happened in part because victim Jyoti Singh was out too late at night.

The film also shows controversial comments of the assailants' defense lawyer A.P. Singh, saying he would burn his daughter alive if she had any premarital contact with men. Family members and officials, who voice sorrow and outrage at the killing, are interviewed as well.

 

Director Leslee Udwin hopes that viewers learn that the attackers are products of the society and education system that they grew up in.

"These men are not the monsters or the psychopaths that the media had prepared me for before I met them," Udwin told The WorldPost in an email.

"They are programmed, like robots, from the day they enter the world to see women as of lesser or no value in comparison to themselves, and their behavior reflects the lack of value they then ascribe to women. We actually ought not to be surprised," she added.

Prominent Hollywood figures, like Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, have praised the film and the director.

Udwin, who is a British independent filmmaker, spent two years in India making the film and issued a vehement appeal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the decision was made to pull the broadcast.

"The real reason for the ban, was misplaced national pride and sensitivity to national image," Udwin told The WorldPost, reflecting on the censorship. "This ban is utterly misguided, counter-productive and without wisdom or logical foundation."

Modi defended the decision in May, saying that it was a legal matter, as the documentary revealed Jyoti Singh's name, as well as the name of attacker Mukesh Singh. Udwin shot back against these claims, saying that the Indian version did not name Jyoti Singh and was fully in accordance with India's laws.

Despite the ban, Udwin says that the film leaked onto the web within hours of being broadcast on British television and the controversy around it contributed to its wide viewership in India.

"I'd be amazed if most people in India who have access to the Internet, have not seen the film. The home minister, Rajnath Singh, may as well have resigned his post as home minister, and become India's Daughter's PR Minister." 

There is an ongoing campaign to stop violence against women in India, as attacks are still a huge problem in the country
There is an ongoing campaign to stop violence against women in India, as attacks are still a huge problem in the country.

In the wake of Jyoti Singh's rape and murder, India passed new laws in 2013 aimed at reducing sexual violence, but attacks against women remain endemic in the country.

Indian authorities received 337,922 reports of violence against women in 2014 , a figure that rights groups say is a small fraction of the true toll.

This week, New Delhi residents are once again calling for more action from the government to stop sexual violence after two children, aged five and two-and-a-half, were raped in separate incidents.

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