'India’s Daughter': The true story behind the banned film

Bianna Golodryga
Yahoo News and Finance Anchor

By Molly McGuiness

She was just 23 years old, a promising medical student determined to make a better life for herself and her parents.

The news of Jyoti Singh’s brutal gang rape and murder in Delhi in 2012 sparked worldwide outrage and galvanized a movement to end the culture of silence on violence against women.

The horrific crime and the debate it ignited are the focus of the new documentary “India’s Daughter” by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin. Yahoo News and Finance anchor Bianna Golodryga sat down this week with Udwin, along with the film’s composer, Krsna Solo, and editor, Anuradha Singh, in New York.

Jyoti Singh was walking home from a movie with a male friend at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2012, when the pair was offered a ride by six young men in a private bus. The men claimed to be heading toward Jyoti and her friend’s town just outside the capital city of Delhi. But Jyoti and her friend never got there. Instead, the men beat Jyoti’s friend and gang raped and brutally assaulted Jyoti before leaving both on the side of the road. Jyoti died 13 days later in a hospital in Singapore.

The film, which includes an interview with one of the convicted rapists, Mukesh Singh, has been the source of a great deal of controversy in India. On March 4, it was banned from broadcast by the Indian government. A statement from the home minister’s office cited, among other reasons, that clips from the film “appear to encourage and incite violence against women.” And on March 10, Avanindra Pandey, Jyoti’s friend who was with her on the night of the attack, came out against the documentary to Indian news organization IBN.

Director Leslee Udwin responded that she’s confident the ban will be lifted, saying, “There is no basis for a ban in a democracy where free speech is one of the major pillars of a constitutional society.” She also addressed the claim made by Jyoti’s friend, the young man with her that night, that the documentary is unbalanced: “[He] was given every opportunity to come and be interviewed on this documentary. At one point, he asked for money to do so. I refused.

Four of the men who attacked Jyoti are currently on death row for the crime. A fifth was sentenced to death but committed suicide in prison, and a sixth man, who is underage, was given a three-year sentence

Despite his conviction, Mukesh Singh still places blame on Jyoti in the film, saying, “It takes two hands to clap. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”

His views reflect, in its most extreme, the culture of gender inequality in India. Shockingly, these views are mirrored by other men featured in the film, including lawyers. It’s a deep-rooted problem that the documentary's composer, Krsna Solo, says is being challenged by a younger generation that has adopted it as a universal crisis.

According to a report released last week by the United Nations, 35 percent of women worldwide said they had experienced violence in their lifetime, and 1 in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex.

Udwin hopes her film will move the conversation on this global epidemic forward. On March 9, Vital Voices Global Partnership and Plan International hosted a premiere of the film in the U.S. with Meryl Streep, Freida Pinto and Chris Martin lending their support. Streep opened the evening with a vigil honoring Jyoti, saying, “She was India’s daughter. Tonight she’s our daughter too.” Pinto left the more than 600 people in attendance with a call to action to fight for gender equality.

“This is a world problem and the time has come,” says Udwin. “And the purpose and the hope and the objective of this documentary is to have us all join hands across the world to stop this lack of respect for women. To ensure autonomy for women, safety for women. It’s the greatest unfinished business of our time. And we have simply neglected it for far too long.”

 Watch the complete interview: