Provocative Documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ Leaves Viewers With Mixed Reactions

Three years ago, Jyoti Singh was brutally raped by a gang of six men on a bus in Delhi, India. It was a huge case that not only provoked a strong international and online reaction, but month-long protests throughout India as well. In addition to bringing up issues about women’s rights in India, the incident became the subject of a documentary released last Tuesday: “India’s Daughter,” directed by Leslee Udwin.

The movie has received acclaim for its powerful scenes depicting how many in India have negative views towards women. One of its most memorable moments is when one of the Delhi rapists, Mukesh Singh, tells the camera that not only was the victim at fault for the rape but that “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” In addition, defense lawyer A.P. Singh stated that he would set his daughter on fire if she “engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself.” This ignorance provoked outrage and vigilante justice, including an incident where a mob of people in northeastern India dragged an accused rapist from prison and beat him to death.

However, “India’s Daughter” has its share of critics Annalisa Merelli of The Express Tribune, in a piece called “No, Jyoti Singh is not India’s Daughter” wrote that the documentary “fails to truly embody the larger issues of gender violence and the feminist movement in India,” stating that the film’s title creates a patriarchal label for its subject. Some also think that the documentary paints India in an unfair light, such as Indian senior minister Venkaiah Naidu, who mentioned a “conspiracy to defame India” and that the “country will be harmed if [Udwin’s] documentary is broadcast outside India”.

Associated Press Asia Pacific Bureau Chief Vijay Joshi said that the documentary was badly made, took advantage of grieving people and used shock statements for cheap applause.

“It lets the rapist and the lawyer spew their outrageous [claims] without challenging them,” Joshi said, in reference to director Udwin. “She had the opportunity, she interviewed him for three days”.

However, Joshi said he strongly disagreed with Indian Parliament banning “India’s Daughter” for Indian audiences. Banned because it appeared “to encourage or incite violence against women”, the parliaments actions were criticized by several journalists as censorship. Udwin told The Guardian that she thought the censoring of her film was “international suicide” and that she considered the film a gift of gratitude to India. Additionally, Al-Jazeera writer Aarti Betigeri wrote, “as the memory of the bus attack recedes, there is a danger that the impetus for real change will fade too.”

The documentary’s power, intention and legacy certainly make it the one of the most important documentaries of recent memory. “India’s Daughter” has its flaws and can be accused of not going far enough to challenge patriarchal institutions, but its powerful scenes accurately depict negative attitudes towards women and its director is courageous and unrelenting in her search for truth and justice. I certainly hope that someday in the future – maybe it is happening now – Indians as a whole will finally say “no more” to violence against women.
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