Am I the only one shaking my head in bemusement at the decision of Leslee Udwin to travel to India to interview Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape, for her BBC documentary? Given that 80,000 rapes take place in England and Wales every year, it’s a mystery why she travelled so far when plenty of rapists were available at home.
Her decision to come to India reeks of the same selective outrage that accompanied the international media coverage of the Delhi gang-rape. It was profoundly cruel and gruesome but why it was singled out as being an exceptional crime is hard to understand when so many horrific rapes and murders take place all over the world.
Perhaps India, with all its problems, is an easy whipping boy? Or is that India, with all its extremes of behaviour, lends itself to sensational headlines? Or perhaps it’s the dynamic between the East and the West that’s responsible, where the latter decides which country to lecture and defines the terms of debate.
Given that rape is about power and subjugation, there was no reason for Udwin to expect anything unique in the mind of Singh. His comments, while frightening, were firmly on the same continuum — not right off it — as the belief harboured by some men in the West that a woman who is dressed skimpily and gets drunk in a bar is ‘asking for it’.
Even on a more trivial level — such as his remark that women are made for housework — he is on the same ground as western men whose behaviour indicates they share his belief.
A survey last year of EU countries showed one in 10 women experienced some form of sexual violence from the age of 15; one in 20 had been raped and about one third who reported being raped by a partner had been repeatedly raped.
The point is to expose the selective moral indignation of the western media, its double standards and the fact that India is somehow expected to lie back and be whipped but when the shoe is on the other foot and their culture is criticised by outsiders, they squeal.
India does not have a patent on misogyny. Indian rapists are not a different species. All Udwin had to do was to reflect for a few minutes on why she wanted to interview Singh in Delhi instead of someone in Derby.
By projecting rape as a crime that happens in a country ‘like India’, people like Udwin do a disservice to the victims of sexual violence in their own countries.
Now, had she interviewed a British or Swedish rapist on why they raped, despite having grown up in so-called advanced cultures and despite being educated and prosperous and accustomed to relaxed interactions with women, that would have made for a truly interesting documentary.
Amrit Dhillon is a freelance journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal