Indian government in row with BBC over documentary

Bus rapist Mukesh Singh said the victim was to blame. Picture: BBC

Bus rapist Mukesh Singh said the victim was to blame. Picture: BBC

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India’s home minister has said the government would take action against the BBC after it ignored a court order and aired a documentary about a fatal gang rape in which one of the attackers blames the victim.

India’s Daughter by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin was to have been shown on Sunday, International Women’s Day, in India as well as in Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries.

Police and the government got a court order that halted the screening, but the BBC aired the documentary in the UK on Wednesday. Indian viewers cannot see it on the BBC’s website, but it could be seen on YouTube.

The broadcaster said it had moved the screening time forward “given the intense level of interest” and to “enable viewers to see this incredibly powerful documentary at the earliest opportunity”.

Home minister Rajnath Singh did not specify what steps the Indian government would take, telling reporters only that “all options are open”.

In the film Mukesh Singh, who was among four men convicted and sentenced to death for the 2012 rape and murder, said “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”.

He said: “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night … Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.”

The film has ignited a debate in India where many worry that it paints India in a poor light.

Delhi Police said it feared that the film’s screening had “created a situation of tension and fear amongst women in the society” and a ban on the documentary was required “in the interest of justice and maintenance of public order”.

Activists and politicians have criticised the ban, saying that Mukesh Singh’s comments only reflect a larger disrespect for women in Indian society.

Congress party politician Priya Dutt said yesterday: “I am very shocked at the decision to ban the video. Rapes happen every single day and this has to be exposed.

“The documentary didn’t defend the rape. In fact it showed the mindset of the rapist.”

Indian attitudes about women are complex and contradictory. The country has had a female prime minister, president, judges and top police officials. The brutality of the 2012 attack shocked the country, and the outcry resulted in tougher laws against sexual harassment and violence, which still is routine.

Women are generally expected to be submissive, and many families consider the birth of a daughter a tragedy.

Illegal sex-selective abortions have left the country with a skewed gender ratio, and females receive less medical care and less education.

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