“India’s Daughter,” a controversial BBC documentary about the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, will premiere in the United States on Monday. The documentary by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, triggered a row over its broadcast in India, mainly stemming from the misogynistic remarks of one of the convicts and his lawyers.
The premiere will be held at the Baruch College of the City University of New York and will be attended by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep and Indian actress Frieda Pinto to express solidarity with people supporting the film, which has been seen by the Indian government as a "conspiracy to defame India." The documentary, which has been banned in India, is being presented by non-profit group Vital Voices Global Partnership and children's development organization, Plan International.
“The film really brings out the hidden demons of the society and their pervasive mindset. These demons have to be brought out in the open. We have to end this culture of silence and being silenced. We have to discuss such issues in the open. We have to confront and tackle this mentality,” Ravi Kant, co-founder of Vital Voices, said, in a statement.
Streep and Pinto, who are both global ambassadors of Plan's “Because I am a Girl” campaign, will be joined by Udwin at the New York event.
“The entire world must heed this wise and brave call. It’s not just India -- it’s everywhere,” Cindy Dyer, vice president of human rights at Vital Voices, said in the statement. “We must have the fortitude and perseverance to extinguish this mindset from our communities, and to support leaders who use their voice and agency to advocate for change. So I implore everyone to watch this documentary. Speak out. Demand nonviolence.”
The Indian government's decision to ban the film backfired in India as hundreds of thousands of people viewed the documentary posted on online video-sharing sites like YouTube, after the BBC aired it in the U.K. on Wednesday night. The video was later taken down by YouTube after the Indian government asked the website to block channels carrying the video.
The documentary, which includes interviews with one of the rapists, his defense lawyers and the victim’s parents, was initially scheduled for a worldwide premiere on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day. However, comments made by Mukesh Singh, one of the accused men awaiting execution, and his lawyers, triggered outrage in government and across wide sections of Indian society.
“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” Singh says in the film. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. ... Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.”
Amid the growing debate about whether the documentary should have been banned in India, the country’s ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Saturday reportedly stated that the BBC documentary is not in the interest of the country.
“Certainly women of this country, the girls of this country would certainly be emotionally affected by insensitive comments of this nature. I think whatever the government has done is certainly too protect and to ensure that the sensibilities of women in this country are paramount to the government and the country as a whole," BJP spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao, reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council of India (BCI), a government body that regulates the law's practice and its study in India, issued show-cause notices to two lawyers of the rapists over their controversial comments in the documentary, local media reports said Saturday. The order requires an individual to convince the court as to why authorities should not carry out a legal case over the person's actions. The decision was taken late Friday night after authorities alleged professional misconduct against the lawyers.
However, the lawyers on Saturday denied having received such a notice. One of the lawyers reportedly said that his comments were misrepresented in the documentary, and alleged that only a part of his statement was used by Udwin. "She (Udwin) took my interview for 10 days, showed only one line," he was quoted as saying, according to a local news channel.