India’s rage: Filmmaker, journalist discuss gang-rape and fallout profiled in banned documentary

“The noise around rape in India is a moment of hope,” a prominent journalist said at the Women in the World Salon in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.


Earlier this month, the BBC broadcast India’s Daughter, a documentary about the rape and murder of 23-year-old Joythi Singh. A physiotherapy student in India, Singh was on her way home from a movie in South West Delhi when she was dragged to the back of a bus, beaten, and mercilessly gang-raped by six men — an attack that left her unconscious and disemboweled. Her body was thrown out of the bus, and she died two weeks later.

Singh’s death, which occurred in December of 2012, sparked massive protests throughout India, yet the country’s government banned India’s Daughter, saying that the film would “encourage and incite violence against women.”

At Wednesday night’s Women in the World salon at the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel, India’s Daughter filmmaker Leslee Udwin, a British documentarian, engaged in a fiery debate with India’s top broadcast journalist Barkha Dutt over Singh’s brutal attack, Udwin’s documentary, and the world’s reaction to the horrific story.

They were introduced by Freida Pinto, a co-producer on the film. Discussion also centered on the brutal gang-rape of a 71-year-0ld nun at a Christian school in Eastern India last week. “I know this nun,” Pinto said, “but is the crime any less heinous if I had not known her?”

Speaking about the groundswell of activism that compelled her to make the film, Udwin praised the actions of the women and men in India who spoke out against Singh’s murder. “It wasn’t the rape that took me there,” she said. “It was the protests.”

And while Dutt praised Udwin’s work and efforts, she didn’t shy away from impassioned criticism. “We are against all bans,” she said of the decision to censor the broadcast. “That does not mean we cannot critique the film … Did it matter that you [as the filmmaker] are from another country? I think we should honestly say yes.”

Udwin noted that the most disturbing part of making India’s Daughter was talking to Singh’s murderers in jail. “Here is the terrible, chilling truth. They are not monsters. These are normal human beings,” she said.

And Dutt was emphatic that this moment in India’s history should not be viewed through a lens of pity or victimization. “The noise around rape in India is a moment of hope,” she said. “The reason you’re hearing this noise is because we are speaking.”

The event was co-hosted by Pinto along with Angelica Houston, Nancy Josephson, Diane Luby Lane, Kelly Meyer, and Nina Shaw.


Enough! Gang-rape of 71-year-old nun may be India’s tipping point


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