Days after the launch of the movie “50 Shades of Grey” the world over, where BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) erotic practices are shown – a movie and a story where women are depicted akin to sex slaves to a rich handsome guy, we have in India and the world, a controversy about a documentary “India’s Daughter”. A documentary on a young girl who was brutally raped and left to die on the road along with her friend. This documentary, which hinges on the testimony of one of the rapists – shot without his consent or knowledge – and arguments from his Defense lawyers, viewers are left without any idea of what the prosecution thinks or what the victim’s friend – himself a victim that night – thought of it? Such is the weight and halo given to the rapist’s rather gruesome testimony with detailed graphic content of how she was raped and killed, that many this writer has interacted with, believe that rapist’s version was the correct version of the events that night! If the derivative public view in the world – God-forbid – been that of a jury, we would have the most bizarre situation where the rapist would have simply walked out. In fact, a halo is already being constructed around the juvenile who violated the girl with an iron rod and pulled her entrails out! (Juvenile rapist in 2012 New Delhi assault now paints and cooks at correction home) All this in the name of “Free Speech” and – if we can actually fathom it – to further “Feminism”. Just that this liberal anachronism of those who have loved India’s Daughter flies in the face of decent even normal, human conduct. In a detailed article in European Journal of Law and Technology, Helen Boyle (Boyle, H. ‘Rape and the Media: Victim’s Rights to Anonymity and Effects of Technology on the Standard of Rape Coverage’, European Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2012) has cited an interesting study:
Karen Dill cites a study which exposed some men to scenes from the films Show Girls and 9 ½ Weeks, including a striptease and a blindfolded woman; which emphasised female degradation, availability and submission and male power, dominance and sexual gratification. The men were then asked to read accounts of date rape or stranger rape. Those who were exposed to the media degradation of women were much more likely to say that in cases of date rape, she got what she wanted or that she enjoyed it [Dill, 2009].
In the modern world of unabashed erotic titillating and submissive practices, we have the Western Media patronize India on the mindset problem of its male population. That the rapist blames the raped – which is shown in sickening detail in the movie – is somehow characterized in the media as a decidedly “Indian – and by extension, a Hindu – Problem”. Somehow, degradation of women and high number of rapes notwithstanding in the West, accompanied with extremely low conviction rate in rape cases in Europe (7% in UK for example) vs India (24%) – this documentary has been touted as a “Gift to India“. Thank you very much! Meanwhile, the only sane human being alive from the scene of the crime – Nirbhaya’s friend – has this to say about the movie and its claims:
“The documentary is unbalanced as the victim’s viewpoint is missing. The facts are hidden and the content is fake. Only Jyoti and I know what happened on that night and the documentary is far from truth,” says Avanindra Pandey who fought with the rapists and murderers to save his friend but was overpowered and beaten up brutally. Backing his claim, Pandey said he had never heard the name of tutor Satendra, who features in the documentary. “Moreover, how does he know which movie I wanted to watch on that night,” asks Pandey. The man who appears as the tutor of the victim in the documentary said, “Avanindra Pandey wanted to watch an action film while Jyoti wanted to watch ‘Life Of Pi’.” The interview of the death row convict created a massive public uproar and controversy after it was made public in which he held girls more responsible than boys for rape. Pandey says, “A controversy was created unnecessarily and was sensationalised. The documentary made fun of emotions and questioned the law and order situation in our country.”
He discusses another person which the movie uses a lot is some “Tutor of Jyoti” – a friend. Avanindra, a close friend of Jyoti, strangely does not recognize the person! A case of fake strawman planted to mouth the script of the predetermined stereotypes the documentary maker – and her sponsors – wanted to depict in the movie?
BBC’s documentary violated Nirbhaya in her Death
Under section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, if Nirbhaya was alive, showing what the documentary did would be illegal in the UK. Just the fact that the victim is dead is enough to violate her dignity.
In the UK, victims of rape or serious sexual assault have unequivocal anonymity and protection from media intrusion under section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. This is a statutory exception under Art 10(2) which allows for derogations on the basis of protecting the rights and freedoms of others. This means the names of victims of rape or sexual assault cannot be reported by the media.
There are reasons behind why the details of rape and the name of the victim is not shared in media. In India, those who want to titillate the audience with the person’s details and that of the crime ridicule the concept of “Family Honor”, while in the West, they come out with more innovative arguments. But the fact remains that victims of molestation live a life of dejection, fear and shame – even though they are not to blame for the crimes. This is a common psychological truth. To not heap more indignities and hardships on the victims, media treatment, commentary and the description is sought to be more restrained than in other cases.
Helena Kennedy QC, comments that the real meaning behind statements which question the rationale of protecting women in these situations, is to reiterate the fear that women make up malicious lies about rape all the time. This is despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that false allegations of rape are made any more frequently than in any other crime: which is around two per cent.  Kennedy explains that the reason why laws to protect the victim’s identity in the media were introduced in the UK was to help people come forward, as it was ‘recognised that the shame of the experience had such serious implications for women’.  For many women public attention over what is still a source of ‘degradation and humiliation’ for them personally, would be ‘the final straw’ [Kennedy, p4, 2005]. She notes that for some communities rape is still such a source of dishonour it could affect the safety of some women and even lead to family rejection.
Honor and dishonor seem to run common across the developed and developing world! In cases where the victims did give consent to the sharing of their ordeal by the media, later admitted to the humiliation that they felt all over again on seeing it in public view. That has been an important reason why right to dignity is held above freedom of press.
Nancy Ziegenmeyer volunteered to be the subject of a series about her rape and the aftermath, however after receiving media attention, she cites that the exposure was ‘dehumanising’ [Meyers, p105, 1997] EVAW cite an example where a national radio station released the name of a woman who was involved in a high profile rape case and lost. The woman suffered serious anxiety and turmoil over this and her stress was heightened by the fact that she lived in a rural area and did not want her community to know what had happened. For her, the consequence of media attention and her privacy being infringed was serious emotional distress on top of the ‘unique costs for the victim’ which a rape trial holds [Estrich, p3, 1987]. Both these experiences, of rape victims and media intrusions on their privacy, are compatible with the arguments made by Kennedy and Benedict that rape is still too misunderstood by society to leave victims with no protection against the existing stigmatism.
The UK law, which allows an exception to the media’s Art 10 right to free speech, recognises that the potential for unnecessary harm to the character and emotions of the victim outweighs the benefits which denying Art 8 rights to privacy would achieve.
Admitted that the rape victim in this case is dead. But are there no ethics or policies on how to report death and its details?
Ethics in death reporting?
Graphic details of death, any death, are not in public interest. That has been the stand of many a media house around the world. Even BBC’s! In cases of even suicide, journalists are asked to be very careful in how they report the whole event. (Source: Journalism Ethics and Regulation By Chris Frost, Pg 157)
Interestingly, every ethic of “Death Reporting”, specially in a case of gruesome and extremely horrendous crime, were dumped by the BBC in this case. Even though Nirbhaya is not alive today, another victim of molestation and violence – the friend (who was found naked on the roadside along with Nirbahaya) is still alive! Of course, her parents who have endured the greatest tragedy of their lives are being made to relive the entire ordeal in gruesome detail! Avanindra, the friend who relives that night so many times even now, has called the movie “insensitive“.
Conclusion Whether a movie should be banned or not is a completely different issue. One wonders if a movie can even be banned in this age of Social Media where voyeurism is at its pinnacle! But to say that such a documentary was a “gift to India” is a cruel joke indeed, when all it has done is to use selective sources – most heavily the villains in the piece showing them as the gospel givers – to extrapolate their mindset to that of an entire nation! All done flouting every norm of journalism globally, specifically in Europe!