I have not seen India’s Daughter. I don't want to either. Even reading about rape rends the gut and leaves the stomach clenched. It is harrowing to be subject even to a cinematic enactment; I try to avoid such movies. So, an interview of those concerned with a real incident of rape, especially Nirbhaya's was simply out of bounds.
The mere thought of watching it terrifies me.
Ironically, some feminists and the misogynists seem to agree on one thing. Banning it is best. The country needs protection from the views of Nirbhaya's parents, the Delhi police, the lawyers on the case and the rapist amongst others.
As a political animal and a staunch devotee of women's freedom, I have read about India's Daughter. I do not want it banned.
I do care for free speech and a liberal country, though I simply do not care for free speech or liberalism for the convicted rapist. In fact, I do not want anything decent for him. Personally, I want him to cease to exist as quickly as possible.
However, I do care for the opinions of the other people connected to that tragedy. Why?
It is because those opinions are exactly what we as a society need to hear. Need to hear loudly and emphatically. The narrative is so shameful and dehumanizing that it must be heard by the entire country.
The people in that documentary are us. They are who we are: Custodians of the law who brazenly expound burning women for being outdoors after 9 PM; the police with their in-your-face objectification of women; uniformly brutal and regressive attitudes devaluing the very existence of women as living, thinking, feeling beings.
As a people whose arrogance for our own culture is immeasurable, this documentary is simply cognitive dissonance. It is a challenge to a collective logic to grapple simultaneously with the glorious, impossibly perfect Indian culture while gazing into this mirror of horrors. It is an affront to an imagined decency, a testament to the daily indecencies in Indian minds and streets.
Everyday people like you and me are deeply misogynistic. You don't believe it? You think these people are an aberration, an anomalous few, a blip in the statistic?
India Spend's recent survey along with the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) in both Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities across India, North and South and East and West, of school and college students reveals this:
- 44 percent of college students “agree” that women have no choice but to accept a certain degree of violence
- 51 percent college students believe women must mainly take care of the household and bring up children.
The hordes of college-educated urban upper middle class stay-at-home mothers of today have raised the kids who participated in this very survey and espoused these views. Mothers who labour dawn to dusk in their farms have raised these children. The mothers have failed. The fathers have failed. They must have.This is irrefutable evidence.
That is what the survey outcomes show: A deeply ingrained attitude of inequity, hierarchy, patriarchy and a feudal mentality at a tender young age.
Dismal policing affirms that when rapes happen. Khattar and the Khaps affirm that every time they open their mouths. Elected MPs affirm that. Drivers, musicians, industrialists, software engineers, teachers, house maids, construction labourers, pilots, passengers, students, all affirm their regressive attitudes. And the MHA affirms that by banning this.
We know that we will be so deeply affected by the glaring truths in the documentary that it kills us to allow it for ourselves. It will be a traumatic experience for parents to accept that their young sons and daughters are bigoted against the female gender; spouses will be appalled, friends stunned.
We have psyched ourselves into believing that we have a cultural utopia frozen in its flawless inherited form. We have blotted out the chilling flaws and lulled ourselves into believing that our culture is so superior that there is no room for questions, rebellion, change and improvement.
Culture is a work in progress. Always and forever. As much as we celebrate the ennobling, uplifting and sheer beauty of Indian culture, we must also candidly acknowledge its fundamental flaws. We must admit that as a society, we have collectively failed the female gender in every way.
Acceptance of any failure is the first step to change.
If we accept India's collective failure with women, if we let ourselves watch the horror that is India's attitude towards women, if we hang our heads in shame, if we stop pretending, we could change. Possibly.
Mr Rajnath Singh, the government is now by, for and of the BJP. Your party has paraded an endless supply of misogynists. Make the country watch this. Or at least let the country watch this. And take the lead by standing up and taking responsibility for short-changing the women of India and personal ownership to fix that. And ask all citizens to do the same.
Change begins with acceptance that India's attitude and actions towards women are fundamentally broken. Change begins with an acknowledgement of failure.
Nirbhaya, give us the strength!