Vital Voices's vice president of human rights, Cindy Dyer, wrote on the group’s Web site that the “India’s Daughter” documentary “is much more than a documentary about violence against women; it is a powerful platform for cultural change on a global scale.”
The United States debut of India’s Daughter follows a week of controversy in India over the hour-long documentary, which premiered on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Channel Four on Wednesday night.
In particular, outcry has focused on remarks made by one of the rapists interviewed for the film, Mukesh Singh. He was among six men who set upon, raped and murdered a young medical student on a moving bus in December 2012, a crime that shocked the world and lead to days of violent protests in India. The victim’s brutal fate is recounted in the film in agonizing detail through interviews with Singh, the lawyers and the victim’s parents.
Singh and two of the lawyers involved in the case both suggested on camera the woman was to blame because she chose to travel on a bus in the evening with a male friend.
"A decent girl won't roam around at nine o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," Singh said in the film. He is one of four attackers who are appealing their death sentences in the rape and murder, another attacker died in custody and the sixth is serving his sentence in a juvenile facility.
The Indian government has denounced the documentary, instituting a ban through a magistrate’s court, sending legal notices to the BBC and calling for YouTube to take down the unauthorized version that immediately began to pop up after the ban was announced. India's Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, M. Venkaiah Naidu, suggested the documentary was a “conspiracy to defame India.”
"The matter was discussed at length in Parliament and everyone agreed: this documentary gives a platform to a rapist, and it sets a bad tone, a bad precedent,” said Shaina Nana Chudasama, a spokeswoman for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party. "With the controversy that this documentary has created, obviously there will be curious minds [who will want to see it].” But, she said, why air the documentary while the appeals process is not complete?
The government, in particular, has objected to filming done for the documentary that spread out over several days in the fall of 2013 in New Delhi’s Tihar jail. Officials at the jail have said filmmaker Leslee Udwin violated the conditions of their agreement and misled them about the purpose of her filming.
In an interview late last week, Udwin insisted she had done nothing wrong, had permission of jail authorities to conduct interviews and had gone into personal debt to finance the project.
“I’m standing up against the might of the Indian state,” she said, adding: “I will not be silenced.”
But in recent days, she has also stirred controversy and backlash from women’s groups and activists in India, who also questioned her methods and chafed at her remark that the documentary was “a gift of gratitude" to India.
Despite the Indian government’s vigilance over the last few days, unauthorized copies of the documentary can still be viewed on the Web, but it was not shown in India on Sunday night as had been scheduled. Instead, the news channel NDTV, which had been slated to show the documentary, went dark for the hour at 9 p.m., with a simple image of a candle onscreen.