Man and beast: Missing the picture in Dec 16 gangrape film uproar

  • Lalita Panicker, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 15:12 IST

It is an insult to the family of the girl who died after valiantly battling her attackers in the brutal Delhi gangrape of December 2012. This is one reason being proferred by those who are seeking the ban on a documentary which features among other things an interview with the driver of the bus on which the horrific incident took place. The criminal, now in jail, talks about how women who are out at night are asking for violence to be perpetrated against them, and how had the victim not resisted she may have escaped with her life.

These are words which will shock anyone with an iota of conscience and humanity. But we must ask, will banning this documentary serve any purpose other than giving the film more publicity? In fact, so repulsive are the criminal's utterances that more people might well become more sensitised to the violence that women face on a daily basis. The biggest insult to the family of the brave girl was that she could not go out at night without attracting the attention of the scum who raped and injured her so gravely that she lost her life. The filmmaker says that she got the requisite permissions to conduct the interview. There is no law which says a criminal cannot be interviewed. The very same government and jail authorities who granted the permission are now up in arms against the film. The film, mind you, not so much the content which is sexual violence against women. The December case is not the only one of its kind. Such rapes take place daily, the victims being even toddlers. Our elected representatives, or some among them, see nothing wrong in saying that `boys will be boys' or that rape is predicated on a woman's dress and conduct.

Other forms of violence like sexual harassment are things that women in both the organized and unorganized sector live with every day. The Pachauri case, prima facie, shows how vulnerable women are to powerful bosses. Women in the unorganized sector, especially farm workers are subjected to all forms of violence with little or no recourse. The women's groups who are arguing that the judicial process cannot be played out in public are right. But in this case, the man is convicted and is only digging himself into a deeper hole with his remarks.

The film does once again turn the spotlight on how little attitudes have really changed since the Dehi rape which evoked an outpouring of anger and grief. The remarks made by the bestial bus driver find echo among men, even some women, in many sections of society. Khap panchayats use rape as a form of punishment in some cases. In some ways, it is method of punishing the men whose honour is besmirched by the rape of their women.

The NCW chief came on television saying that the raped woman has to live with the trauma all her life. Why should she, the victim, live with her trauma? Because society does not allow her to shake off her guilt and shame. Instead the NCW chairperson should have made out a case for a woman to get on with her life after receiving medical attention and counseling once her attackers have been brought to justice. And for society not to treat her as marred for life. The real issue that everyone is shying away from dealing with is the gaps in our criminal justice system.

The first port of call for a raped victim is the local police. The police themselves are often biased against the woman. The FIR is often not filed. The evidence of rape has to be collected within 24 hours. Can you see that happening in most police stations? Never mind the police. A survey of sessions judges conducted some years ago showed that most of them felt that it was perfectly justifiable for a man to slap his wife for lapses like not cooking his food properly. Well, that does not augur well for any woman seeking justice for sexual violence.

In many cases, having filed a case the woman has to live in proximity with her attackers. These are some of the many issues related to rape that women face in society. A film which may be in doubtful taste is hardly likely to demean us any more than we already are. So let the film be aired, let this despicable man spout his venomous views. But let us also be mindful that what he has articulated is what many feel inwardly but are too cowardly to articulate.

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