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Leslee Udwin proves we must ban sexual violence, not India's Daughter

India’s Daughter filmmaker Leslee Udwin had a chance to discuss the ban on the film with the world watching. Sharing her stage was Barkha Dutt at the sixth women in the world event. Sexual violence and harassment women face across the world is what we should target, not films that bring them in focus.

comment Updated: Apr 29, 2015 17:56 IST
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Hindustan Times
Leslee Udwin,India's Daughter,Barkha Dutt

* A woman's body was signed by her rapist. Unable to take it, she committed suicide.

* 97% rapists in the country have not spent a single day in prison.

* 17.7 million women in the country have been raped.

* One in every four girls has been raped on college campus.

These horrific and disturbing figures pertaining to sexual violence do not belong to India; they are of America. And they were presented by that hated figure in India, Leslee Udwin, at the sixth annual Women in the World Summit in New York between April 22-24.

The woman whose documentary India's Daughter -- based on December 16 gang-rape case -- was banned in India had some pertinent points to make: you can critique me but you cannot silence me, you cannot stop me from raising my voice against sexual violence anywhere in the world, you cannot hide your shame under the garb of saving your women.

The Indian government tried to do all of it when they banned the film, which documented the heinous case, the devastated family, its unrepentant perpetrators and their misogynistic lawyers and the people's movement which shook up the powers that be.

Maybe it was the fear of a repeat that made the government variously describe the documentary as "an attempt to defame India" and an "international conspiracy". The knee-jerk ban was of no service to anybody. The film went viral within minutes of being shown on BBC and was watched 1.5 million times in India in one hourafter it came online.

During the discussion, Udwin accused BBC of editing out a scroll at the end of the film which gave sexual violence statistics across the world. "Can you imagine how I don't sleep at night. I will never forgive them for that," Udwin says about BBC's editing of the film.

However, the ban brought the issue back in public conscience, it was again a part of public discourse - if that is how men still think in India, are we doing enough for our women?

For all of us who hated the patriarchal undertones of the film's name 'India's Daughter', who questioned why the rapist had to be a part of the film or who asked whether the film painted India in black across the world, we find all the answers in this discussion.

Barkha Dutt, a feminist and an outspoken advocate of women's rights in India, ends up defending the country at various points in the discussion. Social media is full of accolades for the journalist as she went about standing for India. She rightly points out how the incidents of gender violence are higher in US and UK than India. She articulates how there are 'rotten apples' but not all Indian men are rapists and women are represented in all walks of life.

Patriotically, she points out how we have had a woman prime minister for many years. She defends till she finally has to agree with Udwin that the film was representative of what women globally go through and what men believe all over the world.

And therein lies the heft of the film, it was another chapter in the fight women have started on the war against them. It was a drop in the ocean of ending gender violence. Any woman, anywhere in the world had the right to raise her voice against sexual violence. And Leslee is right, you have no right to silence them.

First Published: Apr 29, 2015 17:25 IST