'India's Daughter': A Horrifying Gang Rape and Its Festering Wounds

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'India's Daughter': A Horrifying Gang Rape and Its Festering Wounds

The Delhi gang-rape case provoked national outrage and led to massive protests across India.


"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night" - certainly not with a man who is not her father or brother. That's what Mukesh Singh, interviewed in Tihar Jail in Delhi in Leslee Udwin's documentary, "India's Daughter," says about the young woman he and his friends picked up in their bus on Dec. 16, 2012. They raped her, brutalized her (Singh dispassionately recounts how one of them "put his hand in her and pulled out something long - it was her intestines") and then dumped her by the side of the road. Sitting in his cell, Singh can't figure out what the big deal is. Things would have gone easier with her if she hadn't fought back, he says. And, after all, haven't others done worse?

The victim's story made headlines and incited protests across India about rape and the treatment of women. Udwin's film also made headlines: It was to air on Indian television but was banned because officials said they feared it would cause more civil unrest. If the contours of this story are well known from news accounts, Udwin adds some chilling images, especially the interviews with Singh and with his lawyers, who parrot similar ideas about appropriate conduct for young Indian women. ("Kissing from the mouth is bad," one says.)

The tale that Udwin, a British filmmaker, tells is the one that captured the Indian imagination and made the victim's case a sensation: an aspirational young woman, modern and educated - she was a medical student; her parents sold their ancestral lands to pay for her schooling - cut down by men whose attitudes about women seem to come from a different world. At the end of her film, Udwin reminds us of the obvious - violence against women is not merely an Indian problem. But "India's Daughter" is a portrait of a place and time. And for all of its horrors, the movie has a positive message, too: Out of tragedy - and this case is just one of many - can come galvanizing change.

"India's Daughter" is not rated. English and Hindi with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 3 minutes.
 


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