“Those who saw the preview of India’s Daughter in Delhi have testified that the original version did make comparisons with the rest of the world. One, Anna Vetticad, praised it as a “balanced documentary,” because it ended with “worldwide statistics highlighting violence against women from Australia to the US.” But when the final version emerged, all this had been cut out. India was shown standing alone, as a country where rape is an exceptional problem.” – Christopher Booker
A huge row has erupted in India over India’s Daughter, a film made by the BBC on the gang-rape and murder of a young medical student on a Delhi bus in November 2012. What aroused particular anger was how the film, designed to be shown in seven countries to mark International Women’s Day, seemed to want to portray India as the rape capital of the world, with its headline claim that the country has “a rape every 22 minutes”.
But what has also come to light is that when the film was privately previewed in Delhi, its original version included evidence that in many countries in the West the incidence of rape is actually much greater. In Britain, the official Crime Survey for England and Wales 2014 estimated that there are 85,000 rapes every year, or one every six minutes. Equivalent US figures suggest that 1 per cent of all women are sexually assaulted each year, one every 25 seconds.
Those who saw the preview of India’s Daughter in Delhi have testified that the original version did make comparisons with the rest of the world. One, Anna Vetticad, praised it as a “balanced documentary”, because it ended with “worldwide statistics highlighting violence against women from Australia to the US”. But when the final version emerged, all this had been cut out. India was shown standing alone, as a country where rape is an exceptional problem.
What also led the Indian courts to ban showing the film was its portrayal of a country where violence towards women is part of its national culture. Particularly controversial was its prison cell interview with the bus driver, waiting on death row for the outcome of his appeal to India’s Supreme Court. He showed no remorse for the woman he had helped to rape and murder. He suggested that she had brought this on herself by travelling on a bus late at night. But again this picture of India as having a peculiar cultural problem over its acceptance of gang-rape is belied by the statistics. According to UK and US figures, 14 per cent of rapes are by strangers. In India the figure is less than 1 per cent.
Back in 2012, when that Delhi crime first attracted worldwide coverage, I looked into many horrific stories of gang-rape reported in Britain. According to the Metropolitan Police, more than 15 per cent of rapes reported in London each year involve three or more attackers. In one Essex case, the rapists of a 16-year-old girl poured acid over her in an attempt to destroy the evidence of their crime. We scarcely need reminding of recent revelations about what was going on in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and elsewhere.
If there is a cultural problem here, it is the long-standing desire of the Western media to stereotype Indian males as somehow, to a special degree, sexual predators. Back in 1984, Western screens showed the TV series Jewel in the Crown and the film A Passage to India, both featuring rapes by Indian men of white women (although one was imaginary). More recently no films about India have been more popular in the West than Slumdog Millionaire and Monsoon Wedding, again featuring rapes, although this time by Indian men of Indian women.
As for the BBC’s latest effort at reinforcing this stereotype, there is already evidence that it has done damage to the image of India in the West, such as the much-publicised case of the Leipzig professor who barred an Indian student from an internship on the grounds that “we hear a lot about the rape problem in India, which I cannot support”. Female professors in Germany are reported as refusing to teach Indian male students for similar reasons. But the question the BBC has to answer is why did it so deliberately omit the evidence from the final version of that film, which might have given its worldwide audience such a different picture? It seems that, across the board, it now takes its right to distort evidence so much for granted that it no longer has the ability to recognise what damage this is doing. – The Telegraph, 14 Mar 2015
» Christopher Booker is an author and journalist who for many years has been a columnist with the London Sunday Telegraph. He was the founding editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye.