Indian Government Attempts To Censor BBC Gang Rape Documentary; Succeeds Only In Drawing More Attention To It

India’s government is attempting to do the impossible and for all the wrong reasons.

India has asked YouTube to remove all links to a controversial documentary about the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi after banning its broadcast, a government official told Reuters on Thursday…

“We just forwarded the court order and asked them (YouTube) to comply.”

The targeted BBC documentary details the horrific rape carried out by a busful of Indian men.

In the brutal two-hour assault, the woman was repeatedly violated with a metal rod before being dumped naked along with her companion beside a road near New Delhi’s airport. The couple was then ignored by passersby, while police argued over where to take them as they lay bleeding on the street, according to the woman’s friend. The victim died of her injuries two weeks later.

Supposedly at the center of the Indian government’s attempted ban is an “illegal” interview with the bus driver, whose comments placed the blame on the rape victim. The bus driver also claimed he didn’t participate in the assault, something disproven later by DNA evidence.

“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back,” Mukesh Singh, who pleaded not guilty at the trial, said in one of several chilling comments.

“She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.”

The bus driver’s lawyer claims Singh shouldn’t have been interviewed about an ongoing court case. Maybe so, but Singh was under no obligation to further destroy his own reputation with these comments. The Indian government has justified its ban under the guise of “protecting” women, a job it’s apparently terrible at performing.

The documentary was banned because Mukesh Singh’s comments “are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women,” India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in parliament on Wednesday.

In reality, the government is banning the documentary to insulate itself from further criticism. Various officials have made similarly repulsive comments over the past few years, as reports of gang rapes have hit the internet with alarming frequency.

Haryana’s top elected official, Manoho Lal Khattar, said this last year in response to multiple gang rape incidents.

“If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way,” Khattar told reporters, “Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are Western influences. Our country’s tradition asks girls to dress decently.”

A defense lawyer for one of the accused men blamed not only the woman, but also her companion, who failed to protect her from six rapists.

Manohar Lal Sharma said 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male friend were “wholly responsible” for the horrific torture they suffered in the Dec. 16 attack in New Delhi because they were an unmarried couple on the streets at night, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma told the newspaper.

Jyoti’s companion, meanwhile, was guilty of failing to protect her, he said.

“The man has broken the faith of the woman,” Sharma told the newspaper. “If a man fails to protect the woman, or she has a single doubt about his failure to protect her, the woman will never go with that man.”

So, it’s cultural, and those leading the culture — elected government officials — don’t want to deal with the fallout of their passive and active support of treating women as second-class citizens. That’s what has prompted the ban, not the “disrespect” for women voiced by one of the attackers. So far, it has managed to only nail down its own borders, but that means nothing to the world’s largest communication platform: the internet.

YouTube has acquiesced to the Indian court order. But that won’t keep Indians from seeing the documentary their government is trying to silence. All this ban attempt has accomplished is the drawing of further attention to both the documentary and the government’s petty acts of self-preservation.

The government — unwilling to admit failure — is exploring its other legal options (protip: there aren’t any) in hopes of forcing the rest of the world to play by its stupid, denialist rules.

“We can ban the documentary in India but there is a conspiracy to defame India and the documentary can be telecast outside,” India’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said.

The government was exploring how it could be blocked abroad, he said.

Nobody’s “defaming” India other than the rapists living within its borders. Oh, and the prominent public officials who stand up for them by suggesting those who have been raped/tortured/killed brought it on themselves.

Unfortunately, the BBC — which produced the documentary — is now inadvertently assisting the Indian government in its censorious quest. Multiple uploads meant to circumvent YouTube’s India-only blockade have been taken down by BBC copyright claims.

While I appreciate the company’s desire to route viewers to its monetized upload, there are bigger issues at play here. Unless it’s willing to use other platforms to further distribute its powerful documentary (many of which won’t generate any income), it’s removal of other YouTube options only makes it easier to keep India’s citizens from seeing something their government has chosen to censor for its own benefit.

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