ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Chilling Effect of Restraints

This response to Indira Jaising and Ritu Menon's "Ethics and Theatrics" (EPW, 28 March 2015) says blaming Leslee Udwin, maker of the controversial India's Daughter and her promoters for not addressing the different contexts of rape is missing the point.

Indian governments in general, and the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in particular, can be relied on to elevate spurious notions of national security or national honour over actual change, just like the green curtains drawn over Ahmedabad’s slums when the Chinese President came to visit. God forbid the world should come to know, via a BBC film, that the saintly Indian man commits crimes against the revered Indian woman.

However, one of the more distressing aspects of the non-screening of Leslee Udwin’s film, India’s Daughter, on NDTV, has been the stand of certain sections of the women’s movement, demanding a “restraint” on its release (Indira Jaising and Ritu Menon, “Ethics and Theatrics,” EPW, 28 March 2015). Those feminists opposing the film have several problems such as the “orientalist framing” or “white women’s saviour complex” that the film is supposed to embody; a dislike of the title which reduces women to daughters rather than independent agents; the supposed equation of poverty and violence; the fact that the commodification of “Nirbhaya” does injustice to the decades of work by the women’s movement to raise awareness about rape and violence; and the neglect of the structural nature of sexual violence through an overt focus on the mind of one rapist (An Open Letter to Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto).

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