It was on December 16, 2012, the day on which the suffering of the 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey started. At the same time it was the day on which India, as I knew it by then, should be turned fundamentally. The history of the Indian “braveheart” is probably known by everyone who watches news sometimes. It is the story of a young woman who died way too early and has become a martyr of a more equitable India. Raped by six men and abused with an iron rod Jyoti survived thirteen more days until she succumbed to multiple organ failure and closed her eyes forever.
Leslie Udwin’s shockingly honest documentation
The British filmmaker Leslie Udwin pictures Jyoti’s fate peerlessly in her documentation “India’s Daughter”. She doesn’t simply illustrate her life. She also speaks with Jyoti’s family, the rapist’s families, the defence lawyers and selected experts. The most shocking interview she had with Mukesh, the driver of the bus in which Jyoti was abused to death. In a gray shielded prison room, he tells distantly and unrepentantly how the gang rape occurred. His eyes are empty; he is gruesomely calm. His words bear witness to the disrespect he conceals against women, women like Jyoti, who live a much more unlimited life than the traditional Indian role scheme want them to do:
„A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night.“
Such statements aren’t new to me. I myself wasn’t harassed once by Indian men. If you believe Mukesh’s statement, it was my own fault, especially as I went alone by auto rickshaw late at night. Three young men surrounded us with their mopeds, trying to talk to me, touching me. The rickshaw driver turned out to be my hero and chased them away quickly. Since that night I had never been out again without any companion.
India‘s Daughter – not an isolated case
Jyoti wasn’t travelling alone and nevertheless she suffered such a fate. Why? Even Mukesh can’t give any clear answer. He explains that they wanted to teach the young student and her companion a lesson. However he doesn’t feel guilty. Finally, he wasn’t directly involved in the rape. And besides,
„[is] a girl more responsible for a rape than a boy.”
This statement is probably the movie’s key message. It shows with what kind of self-conception some men expedite the Indian patriarchy and consider women just as an object. Current Statistics of the Indian Government confirm this hypothesis. Every 18 minutes a woman is raped in New Delhi. The dark figure is much higher. Ram Singh, Mukesh’s brother and main accused in Jyoti’s case, has also already harassed and raped other women. Especially in the slums of the city rape appears to be on the daily agenda. Out of shame many women don’t talk about it, afraid to be rejected by their families. But Jyoti’s death broke the silence. Thousands of people went on the streets of New Delhi. Their demand was clear: “We will not tolerate rape.” By force of arms, policemen proceed against the demonstrators, but they remained stable. Like a purgatorial fire the demonstrations spread across the whole country. Also in Hyderabad you could feel smaller offshoots. Indeed there were more present topics – particularly after the bombing of an urban bus station – but I could notice that people started to talk more about social equality. Nonetheless there could be no question of a fundamental change of Indian society.
Jyoti’s case – a turning point?
About 600 rapes were reported in New Delhi in 2012. In only one case, there was an arrest and subsequent indictment. Accordingly Jyoti’s case is unique in many respects: First, the media interest is still very high. Newspapers and television stations around the world follow the fate of the young student. And also “India’s Daughter” is one of the first documentation of such kind. In India, the film is prohibited. Second, the explanatory work of the police was outstanding. Most crimes in India are usually solved after weeks; or become cold cases. Beyond that many police officers are suspected for bribe-taking or even for sexual abuse on the job.Exemplary for that is a rape case from 2013: A young Indian woman was raped at a police station after reporting a former rape. This is no isolated case. It will probably take several more years before equality will find its way into Indian society. By tendency, I could ascertain a greater estimation of women in southern India and in urban areas than in northern India. Or in New Delhi. On my second night there, young urban residents greeted me with the words “fucking bitch”. In Bangalore, I also experienced that strangers touched my ass on a local market. Even in Hyderabad –a farther south city – I had a scary experience with a guy who was trying to bottle me up and to kiss me.
Legally speaking Jyoti’s case led to some rethinking. The “Anti Rape Law” was toughened and stalking was integrated as a penalty. Under the new law, the rapists of New Delhi were sentenced to death by hanging. Their lawyers appealed against the decision. The final judgment will be heard by the Indian Supreme Court in December 2015. A fifth accomplice, called “the Juvenile”, was underage at the time of the crime. The maximum youth custody for rape in connection with murder is just three years in India. According to Mukesh, ironically, it had been the Juvenile, who acted most cruelly and tore out parts of Jyoti’s intestines as she was still alive. Indian feminists regard the new laws as too soft. But as long as politicians and defence lawyers consider women as worthless not much is going to change in the penal system:
„We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
The link to the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJmk2wVtiSo