The Blog

It's Not About India's Daughter - It's About India's Sons

Has my birth country become such a merciless society where most men don't acknowledge the existence of women, or if they do its only as an object to be bullied, groped, raped, beaten, tortured and killed?

Events so far--

India's Daughter is a documentary commissioned by BBC Storyville, meant to air on International Women's Day

It traces the brutal gang rape and murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh on a moving bus in Delhi in 2012, and the unprecedented protests and riots, which this event ignited throughout India.

The Indian government obtained a court order banning the screening.

Taking no chances, the BBC brought it forward to air in the UK.

The Indian government have since, successfully ordered the removal of a number of versions of the video from YouTube.

Now read on--

I knew it was going to be a disturbing watch, but nothing prepared me for the terror I felt at the re-enactment of the crime. I already knew the horrific details of what was to come, yet was unable to tear my eyes away. All the while inside I was screaming with fear for Jyoti, begging her not to get on the bus, to run, run, run as far away as she could. I watched helpless as she did and the tragedy unfolded, again.

Then, one of the convicted rapists came on screen. He shared the details without wavering. "A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy." He declared, before adding, "A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night ... Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes."

I know it's not just him who believes this. I have heard this sentiment expressed in many different ways growing up in Bombay.

It's why my mother stayed up at night unable to sleep until she had assured herself that I had reached home safely, after a long day at work. It's why I was admonished for wearing tight jeans. Why it was drilled into me that it was dangerous to stay out after dark, and definitely after 9 pm. Precisely because there are people like him out there.

The rapist speaks about the youngest of them ramming an iron rod into Jyoti, and pulling out her innards, as if it was an everyday incident. There is no hint of having done anything wrong. All he says is that if she had kept quiet and not screamed, had given them what they wanted, they would have simply raped gone their own way.

It brought to mind the number of times when travelling by bus or train in my home city I have been felt up by men; been commented on lewdly or just been stared at hungrily as if they'd like to ... rape me. It's difficult even now to admit how scared I was.

And yet, everyday I went to work, despite the nightmare commute, despite what lay outside the safety of my home, because I knew I had to first overcome that fear to make something of myself.

I couldn't stand up to them.

Confronting my tormentors would have simply made it worse. And so I kept my head down, put up with it, got on with life. While all the time inside, I was yelling at the men to keep their hands to themselves, to keep their gaze averted, furious at what gave them the right to do what they did?

It's unreal that a crime like this can take place in the new millennium, in the capital city of a country that's in the race to become a global economic superpower. It's even more inexplicable, that this man can air his distorted views to camera without fear.

I know it's because he believes he is right, because is secure in the knowledge that there are millions who agree with him.

When did this happen? That there are so many in my home country who think basic human values don't apply in everyday life and certainly not to women.

Watching India's Daughter, I realised with even more clarity there are many different India's. There is the relatively safe India I grew up in. Then there is the other everyday, dystopian one that lay beyond my doorstep, beyond the air-conditioned circle that my extended family live in.

The film may have set out to examine the values and mind-sets of the rapists. It revealed the complete lack of.

Has my birth country become such a merciless society where most men don't acknowledge the existence of women, or if they do its only as an object to be bullied, groped, raped, beaten, tortured and killed?

I refuse to believe the faces of those men is the face of all Indian men. I am married to one, and know many others. I know they can be kind, gentle, patient, creative, artistic and caring.

Yet, when I hear the policeman in charge of the investigation guarantee that Delhi is a very safe city "even for women" I know he is one of them.

When the government is more worried that the documentary might taint the country's image abroad and take away tourism dollars, than about it depicting a horrific reality, I know there are many of them in power.

When the first defence lawyer tries to show how much of a humanist he is by comparing women, to flowers and diamonds, and other things that can be plucked and owned and thrown I know even education doesn't change their mind-set.

And when the other lawyer says confidently that if his daughter had pre-marital sex, he would burn her, I know he is only voicing the thoughts of millions of them.

I always suspected most men in my home country were like him but now, hearing him speak, I know they are.

Perhaps what one of them declared is true, "We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no space for a woman." And no, he wasn't joking.

Or perhaps it's time India took a good hard look at her sons and figured out how so many of them turned out so wrong.