“In 2012 an Indian student [Jyoti Singh] was violently raped on a moving bus in Delhi and died of horrific internal injuries. Leslee Udwin spoke to one of the rapists on death row while spending two years making a film about the case. She came away shocked by India’s treatment of women – but inspired by those seeking change.” – BBC News Magazine
The article that follows this lead was written by Udwin, the brave British filmmaker, herself. She describes her encounters with Mukesh Singh (the bus driver), and four other rapists, whom she describes as “ordinary, apparently normal and certainly unremarkable men.” She says the experience “left me feeling like my soul had been dipped in tar, and there were no cleaning agents in the world that could remove the indelible stain.”
These are just a few excerpts from her interviews, which offer a small but terrifying glimpse into the minds of these men.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.”
“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”
“The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”
“She was beggar girl. Her life was of no value.” – the man who said this had raped a five-year-old girl, and “recounted in explicit detail how he had muffled her screams with his big hand.”
In making her documentary, Leslee also spoke with two lawyers who had defended Jyoti’s rapists/murderers. As she put it, “what they said was extremely revealing.”
“You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
It’s important to note that Article 14 of the Indian Constitution grants absolute equal rights to women. But once you take notice of the atrocities that continue to be committed against both women and girls in this country – rape, trafficking, child marriage, female feticide (the selective act of aborting a fetus solely because it is female), honor killings – it is painfully clear that this is not the case.
What inspired Leslee to make this film was the glimmer of hope she saw in the unprecedented protests and riots that the gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh ignited throughout India, leading to the demand for changes in attitudes towards women. “They braved a freezing December and a ferocious government crackdown of water cannons, baton charges, and teargas shells.” Leslee added, “Their courage and determination to be heard was extraordinarily inspiring.”
While we encourage everyone to read Leslee’s piece in its entirety, we caution that the material is upsetting and highly disturbing. The juxtaposition between the men’s casual disregard for the humanity of their victims and the horrific nature of their criminal acts is incomprehensible.
Leslee Udwin’s film, India’s Daughter, will be broadcast on Storyville on BBC Four on Sunday, March 8th to coincide with International Women’s Day. While the film was also scheduled to be shown in India on NDTV on the same day, Indian authorities have banned the domestic broadcast of the film and said they were also trying to prevent it from being shown worldwide. Leslee has appealed to the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to intervene.