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Issue No.: 574 | April 2015
 

“Daughter of India” – The BBC Documentary - – Banning Not the Answer

Nitin G. Raut
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The overriding social purpose to create worldwide awareness and public interest
is missed in a cacophony of misguided outrage.

The ban on Nirbhaya’s film "Storyville: India’s Daughter” televised by the BBC is yet another instance of the Government succumbing to populist reaction and shrill protests, ostensibly to protect India’s image. It is as if to say that the 16th December, 2012 horrendous crime was not in the public domain that it required the BBC film to sully India’s image. The ban in fact suppresses the powerful social message conveyed. The documentary ought to be a testament of Nirbhaya’s gallant fight-back – a life snuffed out in the prime of youth. As if to be a woman is a crime! To say that the film "created a situation of tension and fear among women” is incomprehensible. 

The BBC film deals with a critical social issue. The overriding social purpose to create worldwide awareness and public interest, is missed in a cacophony of misguided outrage. Nirbhaya’s rape triggered a spontaneous protest, where otherwise in our society the hapless victim is intimidated by social stigma attached to it and also the cumbersome legal procedure which puts the onus of proving rape on the victim. To go public is an embarrassment; often the victims suffer in silence and the rapists go scot free! The inordinate delays in investigation and trial only prolong the agony and humiliation of the victims.

The film is in the public interest as it focuses on an important social malaise where rape is synonymous with unacceptable male chauvinism. 

In fact the fiendish mindset of Mukesh Singh, an accused convicted and sentenced to death in Nirbhaya’s rape case and whose appeal is pending in the Supreme Court, is simply bone chilling. It is a shocking manifestation of a pervert mind when he is reported as saying "a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”. It is as if to say a woman is a toy living on gratuitous male sufferance; that her choice of dress should be in conformity with the diktat of the lumpen elements or the protagonists of Khaps and their counterpart in other religions. If the horror and brutality is not enough Mukesh Singh shows no signs of remorse. If such a convict has the audacity to justify his crime and attributes the commission of offence to a woman’s odd working hours and dress style then such a person is not just a threat to society but unfit to live in it. An exemplary punishment to such offenders will act as a deterrent to future offenders.

In an age of social media such bans and censorship are not only counterproductive but sound extremely ludicrous as anyone can view it on the internet, but not Indians in India; more so when there is nothing repugnant to public policy. There is a wide chasm between the BJP Government’s ostensible desire to protect "Public Order” and the BBC’s intent "…to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated”. The latter definitely carries more conviction. There can be a ban only if there is a threat to public order but no such perceptible threat exists. If at all, there is a compelling public interest in televising the film. 

On 23 December 2012, the Justice Verma Committee, formed to recommend amendments to criminal laws, made recommendations to laws relating to rapes, sexual harassment, trafficking, child sex abuse. The Committee recommended that the offence of rape should not be limited to penetration of vagina, mouth or anus, but even non-consensual penetration of sexual nature should be included in the definition of rape. It has also recommended that marriage by itself should not be treated as irrevocable consent to sexual acts. Of course speedy disposal is a key for efficacious legal administration.

The committee has recommended a "Bill of Rights” for women like in South Africa and New Zealand which guarantees the right to life, security, bodily integrity and equality. Many such features are a part of the Fundamental Rights under our Constitution. Additional security by way of such a Bill of Rights for Women will not be superfluous. It can be called the Nirbhaya Bill of Rights for Women.

The crime of rape is a national shame. Instead of simply fulminating over the reported German Professor’s refusal to accept male Indians as interns, it would be better if we as a nation and society ponder over whether we have done anything to clear such misgivings. 

MR. NITIN G. RAUT is an advocate by profession and a
member of the Editorial Board of Freedom First.
Email: nitingraut@gmail.com

 
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