What started over a century ago as a political event to promote equality and end the suffrage of women, continues to this date with similar goals and objectives. Clearly not the easiest of tasks. While we cannot dismiss the giant progress made by women in all fields be it in politics, finance, sports or even just in the public life, there still seems like we have a long way to go. The official theme for this year’s Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’ (#MakeItHappen) – to recognize accomplishments and further advancements. It’s a powerful slogan if you ask me and it left me wondering how I as an ordinary citizen of the world can make a difference.
Much has been said and written about the very politicized recent BBC documentary titled “India’s Daughter” by director, Leslee Udwin. It is based on the brutal gang rape that left a young woman dead and a nation in anger and grievance. Those who have seen it are probably still deeply saddened by the reminder of the inhuman event that took place back in 2012 and furious at the men interviewed in the film. Those who haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. But I urge you to do so without thinking of rape as a battle that only India must fight but rather as a war that the world united must overcome. Do so without perceiving that the filthy mentality of the men interviewed in the movie are only those of rapists in India but as a global issue where misogyny and psychopathy exists and needs attention. Finally, do so without generalizing every man in India to be as pathetic and dominating as there are many heroes who will lay their lives for us.
The film gained much publicity even before its official broadcast thanks to the Indian government’s ban on the movie in India. My immediate reaction was that of annoyance at the defensive nature of the country’s leaders and I questioned their fear to participate in a global debate. I still don’t understand the ban and am against any objection of our freedom of speech. I wish our government worked half as fast on the hundreds of rape trials still waiting to be heard as they did in executing this ban.
On having watched the movie, I was overwhelmed by the indescribable pain in the eyes of the victim’s parents. And then enraged at the words of one of the rapists and even more so at their lawyers. But the more I thought about it, I wondered why I and the thousands of others were so shocked. We’ve always known of the mentality of those men still stuck somewhere in the stone ages. We’ve always known of the gender inequality that exists in many parts of the world. We’ve always known that a rapist is a sociopath capable of anything. But maybe seeing and listening to men on celluloid express in words the thoughts that we have always known existed, somehow made it seem more real and thus harder to digest.
Despite its flaws, the documentary has brought to the forefront the need to fight the violence against women and provided a glimpse into the minds of these rapists. I wish however a documentary titled, ‘India’s Daughter’ talked more about India’s women. About their struggles and achievements, their fears and courage.
The final emotion that this film has left in me is a sense of guilt. Guilty that I am thousands of miles away from India and take some of the basic aspects of life for granted. Guilty to be able to be out by myself no matter the time of day or night. Guilty to be able to remove my sweater and feel the breeze on my skin. Guilty to be able to have friends of the opposite gender and not be looked at accusingly. Guilty to have had the privileged life that I have had.
This is not to say that rape is not prevalent in the U.S but instead of all this guilty feeling, there must be something that I/You can do to help. Helping young girls and boys to receive equal education is important. But education alone won’t do. The lawyers in the documentary are well educated and yet they speak as they do. So where is our education system failing? We need to teach respect. And that must start at home with us.
For those interested or even simply curious, here are just a handful of links to NGOs that can be supported to help advance women:
- Room to Read – Building literacy and gender equality in 10 countries across Africa and Asia.
- Barefoot College – Develop villages, educate and promote female empowerment. Based in India.
- Pratham – Promote literacy for mothers and combat child trafficking. Based in India.
- Women and Children First – Supports mothers and newborns through pregnancy, childbirth and infancy stages. Global.
- MercyCorps – Build secure and productive communities by alleviating poverty and suffering.
“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.” – Aung Sang Suu Kyi