Thursday, June 25, 2015

India's Daughter

About a month ago, I came across a documentary which told about the story of this Indian med school student who was raped and mutilated on a bus in 2012, and who died a few days later. The documentary focuses on her story as a means of telling the horrible fate that India's daughters face everyday. It is not just about this single atrocious case of rape and mutilation, it is about this case being the straw that broke the camel's back and India's population rioting for more than a month to see women's situation in India change. 

What is really interesting about this documentary is the way it touches its public. With the storytelling of this young girl, coming from a poor family who worked so hard and who chose to use the money her parents had saved for a future wedding (as dowries are still a custom in India) and work part-time (which, in concrete terms, amounts to 8 hours/day in her case...) in a call-center to cover the expenses of attending med school, people, and more specifically women,  all around the world feel a connection with this story, as if this fate could have been their own in another place or time. 

Yet another aspect of this documentary which makes it all the more fruitful for its public is the data and research which lies under this telling of a story. Numbers, statistics, court judgments, surveys of all sorts, are actually the foundation of this documentary which appears like a simple relating of one single story. To sum this up, this documentary has two main axes which make it both incredibly breathtaking and informative: one which purely emotional, the part of the telling of this girl's story, and another which points to general facts about India, be it how Indians in general consider and treat women, or actual numbers which enable the public to understand the depth of the problem in what is often called the "Rape Nation".

To give you a few numbers that stroke me about India regarding its female population which I can't keep off my mind: 

  • In India, a woman is raped every twenty minutes, although most rapes remain unreported since it would bring shame to the woman and her family (data from "India's Daughter")
  • Nearly 50 millions girls are missing from India's population; today in India in general there are 927 women for 1000 men, and in some regions the numbers fall to 591 women for 1000 men... (data from "Petals in the Dust")
  • In the last 20 years, 10 million girls in India have been eliminated due to sex - selective abortions and infanticide (data from "Petals in the Dust")

Sadly, the most shocking part is the fact this documentary also shows this girl's rapists, one of whom speaks openly about what happened. The content of his speech is, for someone like me, not merely frightening but rather completely terrifying. It came to me as a great shock that people all over the world, who in everyday life are completely normal, may truly believe that rape does not include a rapist and its victim, but rather two people who do something wrong. This man actually says that not only is the girl who's been raped also responsible for the rape, but moreover, he firmly believes that she actually holds most of the blame: of course, he adds, what was she doing out so late out night (8 p.m.) in a bus with her boyfriend. Meaning that, to him, she was not a respectable girl, and so she needed to be taught where she belonged... Furthermore, this man has no remorse... Nor do any of the others... 

And quite even more striking, is the answer of one of these rapists' lawyer, who supposedly is a respectable educated man, who overtly states that if his own daughter was staying out that late (and I insist on repeating that it was only 8 p.m.) and was spending time with her boyfriend, he would not bear the shame she would have brought on the family and would therefore burn her (literally). Moreover, as this statement quite some shock, he was asked whether he truly meant his words or if he rather said these lightly (if saying such things can be somehow excused anyway, but let's just pretend they can be...), to which he responded all the more convinced that he meant every word and that he would say the exact same thing if ever asked again... And last but not least, here is just a sample of this man's ideology talking about India: "We have the best culture. Women have no place in this society."

The statements of these men really question our worldwide advancement towards a world of true equality between both sexes. With this article, I am not trying to show how bad the situation is in India, in order for people of the Western world (including myself) to look down on this country and its population's mentality. Quite the contrary, I believe that the world is full of such instances, but that India is one of those striking examples which enable us to truly realize how much still needs to be done. Of course, as you may have guessed, these problems for girls and women is not the only issue in India, and surely, this problem is tightly linked to many others, such as lack of education, unemployment, extremely severe poverty, deeply-rooted stereotypes and preconceived ideas, the caste system, gendercide, etc. And although countries from the Western world might not face all of these issues combined, they still face, to some extent, most of them, and thus also have all of the resulting society's problems India has to an extreme extent. 

The point of such documentaries is to raise consciousness on society's problems, be they on the other side of the planet or right next to us. The only way this can happen and the world can change and progress towards a brighter future of equality and justice is if all of us use such information to reflect on our own situation, and not be comforted in our belief that our own society is quite ok compared to another... This documentary has really awaken me, and showed me that as the girl whose story is told believed, the problem in India, as is in all countries over the world is mentality. What needs to evolve is the way we think. This doesn't mean we have to turn our backs on our tradition or our core beliefs, not at all. The idea is that we all have to revisit our beliefs and try to understand to what extent we ourselves, or our community, society, country, or world, have not been clouded by our limited judgement. 

Generally, the worst acts we do in life are those we're the least aware of. If you had not come to the realization that killing, raping, harming, or insulting your family, friends, neighbors, or any other human being, you would be doing it without a single thought, and firmly believe that this how the world rolls. Wouldn't you? Well, that is how the world's history has been written, by the atrocities all the planet's peoples have committed to one another, or to other living species, or to the earth itself in the name of God or progress, and the slow realization that they were barbaric, and that this not what neither God nor progress is meant to be... 

I highly encourage you to watch this incredibly insightful documentary, which really has to do with every single one of us on this planet. I also recommend that you watch another one called "Petals in the Dust", for whom I have a link below too. And finally, if you're interested I have written an article a few months back about the situation of oppression that women face on a global scale called "Global Oppression of Women". Here is the link to the article:

Here is"India's Daughter", if you are interested (it lasts about one hour):

Here is a trailer of another documentary called "Petals in the Dust" which lasts about 5 minutes and which gives a broad idea of the situation for women in India I have just talked about:

Have a great day, and keep your mind sharp!

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