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Women’s rights activists divided over ban on film

The ban on a documentary on the December 16 gangrape case has divided women’s activists. While the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has opposed it, saying it is a knee-jerk reaction, several others including former additional solicitor general Indira Jaising and lawyer Vrinda Grover, have written to the NDTV seeking a postponement of the telecast of the film till such time that the legal proceedings in the rape are completed.

Distancing themselves from the grounds cited by the government for banning the film, Jaising, Grover, Urvashi Butalia, Kavita Krishnan, Devaki Jain, Suneeta Dhar, Navsharan Singh and Nandita Rao have raised objections in the letter on several counts. These include infringement upon the rights of the rape victim and the accused men, thwarting the sanctity of the evidence and lack of clarity on how informed consent of the convict Mukesh Singh was sought. Objection has also been raised about focusing on poverty that strengthens the stereotype that rape is perpetrated by poor men and the fact that by focusing on the accused and his lawyers it incites violence against women.

Referring to the statements by the defence lawyers, the letter says amplification of such views is not desirable. “While it is true that many men across the world hold such regressive views, the amplification of the same by this film also serves to push back the work of the women’s movement in India, which is engaged in contesting and challenging this mindset. We cannot lose sight of the fact that these unlawful and reprehensible statements voiced by two lawyers are dangerous in as much as they can be received by people as being the opinion of not only lay persons but those  informed by law,” the letter says.

While AIDWA has already met the Delhi Police for an FIR against the two lawyers, it has opposed the ban. In a signed statement, Jagmati Sangwan and Malini Bhattacharya said, “This is a knee-jerk reaction that constitutes an attack on the freedom of expression. Furthermore, the film reveals the reality of the brutality of rape without sensationalising it. The statement made by one of the convicts in the film is shocking and condemnable.”

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