Over the last few days I have heard arguments both for and against the ban on Leslee Udwin’s controversial BBC documentary India’s Daughter. I will confess at the outset that I have watched the documentary and found it to be brutally honest and extremely disturbing.
As a mother of a teenage girl, I was appalled by the justification for the crime provided by the rapist and was disgusted by the lawyer who compared women to flowers and diamonds that essentially invite trouble if left out in the open. The rapist goes on to talk about how the intention was to punish the victim for being out at 9pm with a male friend. The ruthless sexual violence, the graphic details, it is all stomach-churning.
However, in spite of all this, I will still make my daughter watch the documentary. As a teenager belonging to a middle-class family, she is cocooned from the harsh reality of the discrimination Indian women face on a daily basis. It would be fair to say that until now the only discrimination she has encountered is her belief that some of her teachers are biased towards other students. Being a good student she believes what she reads in her social science book–boys and girls are equal in India with equal opportunities as per the Constitution of this country. That should go straight out of the window after watching the documentary.
Though I would like her to live her life without ever encountering a misogynist like the lawyer in the documentary or worse, the rapist, I know my prayers and wishes are not going to be enough. She should not live under the illusion that ours is an equal society or that the law of the land will support her. Watching India’s Daughter should effectively make her aware that dressing up according to her whims and fancies is not for an Indian girl, and if she is able to study and go out it is a privilege and not the norm.
As an Indian girl, it is better for her to be aware that she must think twice before smiling innocently or feeling the wind in her hair… for all you know someone might not agree with her choice of shoes on that particular day and might decide to punish her for that.
She should keep in mind that most Indian men don’t think of girls as individuals; they exist only to carry the burden of patriarchy. It is good to be aware that if you don’t dress up properly, a passerby on the road has the authority/gumption to punish you so badly that you are scarred for life. The documentary would educate her that some rules are not made to be broken and one does so only at one’s own peril.
Don’t get me wrong. As a mother I would want her to live her life away from the very scent of the deep-rooted misogyny that exists in India today. But I am aware of the fact that where the safety of my daughter is concerned, ignorance is not bliss.
Will she forgive me for shattering her bubble of living in a liberal, educated society? Will she dare to dream after watching the horrific documentary? Probably not, but I really don’t care as long as she comes back home safe and sound every evening.