March 1, 2015

India’s Daughter: A Campaign we Can’t Afford to Miss. {Trigger Warning}


One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime—that adds up to one billion women, worldwide.

In Delhi, on 16th December 2012, Jyoti Singh, a young medical student aged 23 years, was brutally gang raped on a private bus by six men including the bus driver, they also beat the male friend she was travelling with as he tried to defend her.

After the attack Jyoti and her friend were thrown off the moving bus and allegedly the bus driver tried to run Jyoti over; however, her friend managed to pull her out of the way.

Jyoti and her friend were found by passers by, and taken to hospital for emergency treatment. She reportedly had bite marks all over her body and it is thought her intestines were pulled out during the attack.

Jyoti died 13 days later from the horrific injuries she sustained during the attack. Medical reports stated that she suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals and a blunt rusted instrument is believed to have been used to beat her, as well as for penetration. The police described the object as a wheel jack handle.

One of the men accused died while in police custody and the other five men were arrested and sentenced to death for the assault.

Jyoti’s death not only sparked unprecedented protest and riots throughout India, it also led to a change of mindset as people from all over the world are working together to educate and drum home the message that rape and violence do not have any place in society.

A documentary is due to be released on 8th March 2015, which not only tells the story of the effects it has had on Jyoti’s grieving parents, it also highlights the horrific problem of systematic rape against women in India.

The documentary, which will be launched on International Women’s Day, was made by Lesley Udwin. She spoke of her reasons for making the film:

“I began this film with a narrow focus, ‘Why do men rape’, I discovered that the disease is a lack of respect for gender. It’s not just about a few rotten apples, it’s the barrel itself that is rotten.

“It was an Arab spring for gender equality. What impelled me to leave my husband and two children for two years while I made the film in India was not so much the horror of the rape as the inspiring and extraordinary eruption on the streets. A cry of ‘enough is enough.’ Unprecedented numbers of ordinary men and women, day after day, faced a ferocious government crackdown that included teargas, baton charges and water canon. They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I can’t recall another country having done that in my lifetime.”

Lesley Udwin spent 30 hours interviewing rapists including Gaurav, a 34 year old man serving 10 years in prison for raping a five-year-old. She continues her explanation saying,

“He told me in minute detail what he had done. How he had taken off her knickers. How her eyes were wide with fear. How he had done it front and back. I asked him how tall she was. He stood up and put his hand above his knee. I asked him, ‘How could you do something so terrible that would ruin a child’s life?’ He said, ‘She was a beggar girl, her life was of no value.’”

Udwin traced the girl, named Neeta, who is now 10 years old, and plans to make a film about the resilience and resistance of the child’s family, saying, “She is doing OK. Her mother is a beggar and has put Neeta and two other children through school.”

As distressing as these stories are to read, it is essential that they are highlighted to raise awareness and hopefully change the mentality of rapists, as in India alone, a female is raped every 22 minutes.

It is imperative that the message the film sends is spread out throughout the world as change needs to happen on every corner of the planet, not just in India.

Lesley Udwin has a strong belief that this will happen saying, “Many noble and civilised responses have come out of a horrendous crime. After seeing the film, the first response is often, ‘What can we do?’ I’m an optimist. I believe that change is possible. The India’s Daughter campaign is an urgent plea to make it happen.”

The campaign, which has been backed by international organisations and supported by Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, will initially be shown in rural communities throughout India and broadcast to 20 million school pupils. It will be broadcast on March 8th to seven different countries.

Meryl Streep spoke of the documentary saying,

“This moving documentary is harrowing not only for its heartbreaking, unflinching look at a young woman’s life (which has been) brutally ended but for the intimate, clear-eyed look at the young men who broke her and their defenders. It forces a look at the mindset that must be made to know it has no place in the civilised world.”

Eve Ensler is an author and activist who organised One Billion Rising, which is a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, said that the gang rape and murder was a turning point in India and around the world saying,

“Having worked every day of my life for the last 15 years on sexual violence, I have never seen anything like that, where sexual violence broke through the consciousness and was on the front page, nine articles in ever paper every day, in the center of every discourse, in the center of the college students’ discussions, in the center of any restaurant you went in. And I think what’s really happened in India, India is really leading the way for the world. It’s really broken through. They are actually fast tracking laws. They are looking at sexual education. They are looking at the bases of patriarchy and masculinity and how all that leads to sexual violence. “

The website for India’s Daughter will go live on 8th March.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline (US) is available at any time for those who need support 1.800.656.HOPE.



Author: Alex Sandra Myles

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Richard Potts/Flickr

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