In the last few days we have had a huge debate raging over the documentary made by Leslee Udwin called “India’s daughter”. Some denounce it because it offers a rapist who has been sentenced to death a platform to justify his crime. Some denounce it by saying it is voyueristic, some others denounce it by saying the western media is trying to portray India in a bad light. Some people are deeply disturbed by the seeming subtext that says only men from a certain section of the society (EWS, boys brought up in households where women are constantly violated etc) end up as rapists and murderers and that is not the truth. Many men have objected to the documentary saying that it seems to suggest that all Indian men think this way. Men and women who support it feel it’s a mirror shown to the Indian male and opens the lid on their deep rooted misogynistic attitudes. In all of this drama, the government files a case to ban showing the film and Google pulls it off its online platform and Leslee Udwin says India is committing “International suicide” …. And thus dawns International Women’s Day.
I saw the film, in its entirety on March 5th and here’s my take on it. The title should read “World’s daughter” and not “India’s daughter”. The reason is women everywhere are raped, treated as second class citizens and have had to fight for their rights to be treated as equals with slow success. There is no culture in the world where a woman is thought of as equal and till that happens, nothing much will change. The laws can get stringent, the laws can make women feel safer in some countries than others, but there is no “progress” on women’s rights till she is “thought” of as an equal. The two lawyers in the film speak of women needing protection and one of them, says he will shoot his mother/daughter/sister himself if they indulged in a pre-marital relationship. Well, the entire world talks of “protecting” women …. Hello, women need equality, once you treat us as equals, you won’t feel the need to protect us. You “protect” property, you “protect” valuable goods, you “protect” your reputation …. You “protect” women in the same token. Women seem to represent property, goods and reputation and hence need “protection”. Why don’t you try and think of us as equals – you don’t discriminate in our upbringing, you don’t discriminate in what we are allowed to wear, you don’t decide what’s “our” reputation and how the family reputation is decided by us alone.
Nowhere you hear that a man got molested because he was wearing shorts, nowhere you hear that the rapists family turns away from him and very rarely you hear of mothers telling boys to tell them where exactly they were when they turn up late. I know, in some societies mothers whack the boys and ask questions if they misbehave, but bad behaviour by boys is less reprimanded than bad behaviour by girls. We warn our daughters that they will face the consequences of sleeping around, but fewer mothers warn our sons, that they are responsible if they sleep around – “young men sowing wild oats” is macho behaviour and when the oats sprout in the young women’s bellies you have unwed mothers, teenage pregnancies and social ostracization. Young men become old geezers and continue as casanovas or “gentlemen” with glad eyes…. Free to have a family, and continue to have amorous dalliances on the side. “Men will be men” …and they will cry foul when the rules are draconian. Hey imagine if its your best friend having that “amorous dalliance” with your pretty daughter born to your legally wedded wife ?? You want to shoot the bastard, right ? Then why shouldn’t you be shot or your son be shot when you or he are sowing wild oats ? Equality sucks and that’s why it is a longer battle.
I read recently that there are fewer women CEO’s than CEO’s named John… You can argue all you want about India’s patriarchal society and how terribly we treat women in Japan but the most advanced nation on Earth in modern times doesn’t even have a woman President in its 200+ years of glorious existence. Equality, Liberty and opportunity for all – I have goose bumps everytime I read that, but all that seems to apply to “men”. If women were equal, why haven’t you elected a woman President and why is your President always a man, and yes, thank God atleast slavery was abolished.
So the horror of Dec 16, 2012 on the streets of Delhi is not something that happens only in India. The mindset that the perpetrators and the lawyers display is not unique to India. Ms Udwin will do the world a service by renaming her film to “World’s daughter” and India will do the world a service by showcasing the steps it’s taking in bringing gender equality. I don’t see any India bashing in the film, it can have subtitles in Portugese or Spanish or Swahili and the settings would change but the mindset displayed by men would be the same. No religion accords a woman equal status – long back, the Hindu scriptures gave equal rights to women, Sita could walk out of her husband’s home and bring up her boys as a single mother and still be considered Goddess, Draupadi could marry five men and be in love with Karna and still be considered Krishna’s sister, women could be priests and could light the funeral pyre, do every religious practice and she could be a warrior, and fight in the army. That small flirtation with equality has been lost forever and we are left with this disgusting mindset that treats women as objects.
The day it’s ok for women to dress the way they want, do any work they choose to do, live life on their terms, that will be the true International Women’s Day – till then this is one more day when women will be celebrated, honoured and felicitated in the morning, sexually harassed at work in the afternoon and raped in the evening.