Content note: Several references to rape and sexual violence.
Meryl Streep seems to think Indian women are her daughters; if not hers, then surely the United States of America’s. At a recent glitzy premiere of India’s Daughter in New York, Streep said of Jyoti Singh, whose gang rape is the subject of discussion in the documentary, “she’s our daughter too.”
Jyoti Singh was a young student who was brutally gang raped and subsequently died of her injuries in December 2012 in Delhi. The incident sparked mass protests in India and led to changes in antiquated anti-rape laws. Ever since, sexual violence in India has been a global concern. There is of course nothing wrong with that, per se, but the making of specific issues into international causes should always be interrogated within current geo-political dynamics.
Similarly, India’s Daughter, produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation and directed by the British director, Leslee Udwin, requires scrutiny. There are various issues with the documentary that I could point out: the paternalistic title of India’s Daughter, the legal issues with getting access to interview a convicted rapist whose death sentence is currently sub-judice and the platform provided to the men’s lawyers to propagate sexist and misogynistic views, but most of these have been elaborately and excellently discussed in India. I am more interested in reflecting on the purpose of this documentary — what is it trying to achieve?
The documentary has garnered attention for its interview with one of Jyoti Singh’s rapists — Mukesh Singh — who shows no apparent remorse for the brutal crime and goes on to say that women are more responsible for rape than men. Families of the other three men who have been convicted for the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh were also interviewed. Unfortunately, the interviews with Jyoti’s parents haven’t managed to make headlines even though they completely deserve to. This is, however, down to the media coverage of the documentary rather than the documentary itself. For me, where India’s Daughter fails is in challenging the age old narrative of the good poor vs bad poor…
Scene of a candlelight vigil at dusk, with a mixed gender group of around 20 people in the discernible area and a glade of trees behind them. There are two fully visible placards (left to right): one is yellow with ‘Justice’ in maroon letters and the other is white with ‘FREE ME’ in black capital letters, with those two words separated by the female symbol in red. A black barrier in front of the people bears the words “India’s Daughter… WHY?” in grey/white. From the BBC website.