India’s Daughter is a powerful documentary which gives an insight into the 2012 Delhi rape case. There are more than 92 rapes every day in India, 4 of which take place in Delhi, earning it the title of “rape capital of India”. Why is it then that this particular rape case sparked a protest which spread across the globe and lasted for more than a month? These protests forced the Indian government to set up a special team to investigate the filed case within 17 days when normally it would take 90 days. The speed of the investigation was a result of the scale and strength of the protest.
People of all backgrounds came out in large numbers to demand justice and they quickly gained support. “Long life woman’s Freedom!” and “Give justice!” were amongst the slogans that were chanted. From day one of the protest, it stopped being about Jothi’s individual case and the focus turned to women’s oppression. The documentary fails to show the impact of these movements and strength of the people fighting against sexual violence, rape and domestic violence. It does however show some of the brutal method used by the state against peaceful protesters, in which the human rights of freedom of speech and the right to protest were attacked.
There has been a growing anger towards the crimes that have taken place against women, especially rape, and the inhuman way the young women was attacked and raped was the final straw. The fact that she was an ordinary women coming home from a movie with a friend at 8 in the evening hit home the message that it could happen to anyone.
The Indian state, instead of addressing the root cause of rape and women’s oppression, banned the documentary because the excerpts “appear to encourage and incite violence against women.” They however fear the reaction that this might cause.
It is true that some of the things mentioned by the rapist were sickening to hear. They expressed no guilt about the incident. Nevertheless, the most surprising comments came from defenders of these criminals. The lawyers comments were disgraceful but unfortunately they do reflect the views of a large section of Indian society. Although it was shocking to hear, it wasn’t a surprise to those who are familiar with the conditions that women India are living in.
Many rapes are not reported by the victims for many reasons including fear of the police, pressure from family and fear of being blamed. There is also a strong culture of shame and the need to protect the “dignity” of the family. Blaming the victim is rubbing salt in the wound but this is exactly what is happening. “What were you wearing?”, “What time was it?” and “What did you say?” are amongst some common questions the victim is asked. Justification of rape by the clothes that a woman is wearing or the time she chooses to go out are absolutely disgraceful and unacceptable. It is those same voices which insist that they have a right to rape a woman if she is dressed in a certain way or is out after a certain time, as these factors make her fair game.
In sections of Indian society where patriarchal views are deeply entrenched, women are treated as property. This is taken to such extreme lengths that marital rape is legal in India because a man’s wife is seen as the property of her husband. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, states: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”. And in India 94% of rapes are committed by perpetrators known to the victim, in most cases this is their own husband.
Maybe in few days the Indian State will “ban” this information too. The report states that,“if marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress”. On the other hand, if rape, whether in marriage or outside of it is made illegal, it would contribute towards changing conditions for women to make them feel safer.
India boasts about having the fourth largest economy in the world but it’s a country where at least 30% of the population live in dire poverty. It is also home to 5 dollar billionaires who were ranked among 100 richest people in the world. Such is the huge divide between the super-rich and poorest in society. The majority of the population struggle to meet their basic needs. The children of these families are brought up in these desperate conditions. Can they be blamed for growing up thinking that it is normal to be violent and aggressive? Impoverished social conditions and a backward cultural system mean that the male hierarchy is maintained and the acute oppression of women is the result of this.
The Delhi 2012 rapist came from a deprived background, without education; he had seen beating and sexual abuse within his family and was familiar with prostitution. This doesn’t justify his behaviour but at the same time, we have to question state failure to its people.
Why is it that the fourth largest economy is not able to provide its people with basic rights and facilities? There is enormous wealth that exists in India that is good enough to create a better society if it is planned in a way that serves society instead of letting few billionaires plunder it.
In the current society it would be unrealistic to argue that women and men are equal. The history of patriarchy, propaganda and so-called cultural values are embedded in the minds of men and women and social change is not going to take place overnight without challenging it.
The Delhi incident was a storm that came and went but unless the state is able to provide for the needs of the masses it will not be the only storm.
We have to remember that these attacks are taking place on a regular basis and sexual violence, as horrible as it is, is one of the many struggles that a women has to go through.
Women, similar to Jothi, are forced to work in terrible conditions, late hours and for low pay. Economic constraints and difficulties are forcing them to put their safety at risk. Equal opportunity, equal rights and equal wages, as well as better working conditions, will in relative terms improve some aspects of a women’s life. However these will not just be given, they have to be demanded.
Young Tamil women in the Diaspora community are faced with oppression which is often ignored. In order to preserve their identity and to keep their culture, family barriers prevent these women from living their lives in the way that they choose. In the name of keeping them safe they are shut off from the rest of the world.
Women living in more economically developed countries do in relative terms have a higher standard of living than women in South-Asian countries. There is still a long way to go, however, as women in developed countries remain oppressed by a male-dominated society in which rape is still justified by victim-blaming and women are still forced to stay in abusive relationships due to economic conditions. The economic conditions in some wealthier countries do afford some women better working conditions, wages, and welfare and as a result, more independence. These have been won through a history of political struggles by women. However, these gains are now under threat as vicious austerity measures are attacking the living standards of women. More and more women are forced to look after children and the elderly as services are being cut. Women in both places have to fight for greater equality, but this is much harder particularly for women in India and South-Asia due to the numerous ways they are oppressed by religion, culture and caste. All of these make it almost impossible for a woman to come out and raise their voice. They are forced to find safety in their family from the attacks they are face in work place and roads. This is sometimes the equivalent of looking for safety in prison.
We need to give women the confidence to fight back which can be done by showing solidarity with other oppressed women across the world and by fighting to change the capitalist system which perpetuates a patriarchal society.
: – Isai Priya