Defining a Culture: A Review of India's Daughter

By: Natalia Atwal

Warning: Spoilers 

In my last post I briefly discussed a major rape incident that occurred in Delhi, India. The gang rape took place in 2012, and this past week a documentary of the event was published.  The documentary was produced by British producer Leslee Udwin, and was banned by the Indian government.

According to the Indian courts the documentary “appears to encourage and incite violence against women”. Members of the Indian courts believe that no one should receive monetary compensation from the rape incident.  The documentary was originally uploaded to YouTube but later was bought over by BBC. I watched the documentary on the website I have listed above, and was embarrassed for the India government. After watching the documentary it is extremely clear why the government banned the documentary. The documentary shows how late the actual sentencing took place but most importantly how warped the outlook on women in the Indian culture is. Due to the temples, Himalayas, climbing treks, missionaries and Taj Mahal, India is a frequent tourist destination. The documentary highlights the scary realties of being a woman, traveling in India. It highlights the beliefs and cultures that have plagued a negative outlook on women in the India society.

Jyoti Singh was born into a poor Indian household in South Delhi, her parents were traditional people, but had a modern mindset when it came to the education of their daughter. Her father sold the family land to provide his daughter with an education, because Jyoti believed that a girl could do anything. She believed no one was above a and worked late nights at a call center to help pay for her medical school. Jyoti’s mother employed the use of a tutor to help her daughter succeed while attending college, in hopes of becoming a doctor. Jyoti had completed her final exam on December 16, 2012 and went to the movies that night with her male friend. (Emphasis on the male part of friend because according to the defense lawyers that makes a major difference.) On the way back from the movies they got a ride on a bus to reach home quicker. The bus was, run by a group of intoxicated locals, who decided to question Jyoti. The six members on the bus beat Jyoti’s friend and raped Jyoti. They finally left the two on the side of the street, where they were later found by a cop. When the cop found Jyoti and her friend, her intestines were taken out and crowds swarmed around the two just to observe the incident.

The driver of the bus was interviewed several times during the documentary. He stated he did not rape Jyoti but drove the bus while the others did. He stated that girls should not leave the house and attend movies with the members of the male gender. M.L. Sharma a defense lawyer for the rapists stated, “in our culture we don’t allow women to leave the house after 6:30 in the evening”, “she should have never been at the movies with a unknown person”, “there is no place for women in our society”. The other defense lawyer AP Singh stated that if his daughter or sister engaged in pre-martial activities, he would take them to his farmhouse and burn them alive.

The documentary highlighted the major issues that took place not only in the actual hearing but the deep-rooted issues in the Indian culture. Jyoti’s mother explained the culture well, in her statement that India allows girls to be married off at 12 years old, but does not have definite laws guarding the rape of women. I noticed that throughout the video the youth rallied together to fight for Jyoti. The youth ignored religion, classism and sexism and focused on fighting for a common cause.

Over the last six years I have had the opportunity to travel to India four times to visit my grandparents. I have visited Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, the Himalayas, and Amritsar and I have noticed an apparent culture throughout the cities.  Women have a cultural place in Indian society and for generations women in many parts have been looked at as a liability. Women in many parts of India do not receive an education, many are forced into arranged marriage, and many believe a women’s main job is to care for her family. These beliefs only further the acceptance of women as inadequate members of society, the idea that women cannot leave the house past a certain time, the belief that women cannot travel alone, the idea that it is acceptable to take advantage of a women and the idea that a friendship between a man and women simply does not exist. My favorite part of the movie was the interview with Sheila Dikshit, the former Chief Minister of New Delhi.  During her interview she stated that when children grow up in suppressing environments they believe and accept that way of life. Dikshit’s example of a family that gives a son more milk then a daughter, shows that societies practices often get embedded in the mind and resonate when children become adults. India’s Daughter is a must see documentary that highlights the place of women not only in India but also around the word. When a 23-year-old girl lies on her deathbed after being raped and apologizes to her mother for causing trouble, we must all realize it is time for a change. Jyoti Singh believed she had a right to an education, a right to attend a movie and a right to a better life without gender roles.  Women in the Indian society are changing but many old traditional perceptions of young independent women in society are sadly not.

India’s Daughter online:

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