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article imageReview: ‘India: A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Jun 28, 2013 in Politics
Delhi - Last December, a young woman was raped and murdered in India. The shockwaves are still reverberating across the world. This is one woman's view.
What to file a story like this under? Entertainment, Crime, Politics, Lifestyle...?
Although this is a TV programme, there is nothing entertaining about it. Herein, a team from BBC 3 follows a young British-Indian woman back to her homeland, although it doesn't feel quite so homely in view of what she sees.
In the UK, so-called feminists whine and wail about a mythical glass ceiling, a gender pay gap that is more illusory than real, and class lad's mags as sexual harassment or even vicarious rape. Women in India have real problems to worry about.
Radha Bedi may be Asian but she is both totally Anglicised and a thoroughly modern woman. The last time she visited India was not a pleasant experience; this time she is on a fact finding mission. If one criticism is to be made of this programme it is the ludicrous staged meetings. We see this all the time in both documentaries and news programmes, but that does not excuse it here.
Western feminists have created a mythical patriarchy; India has invented a real one. Was it always like that? Not under the Imperial masters, who suppressed the inhuman practice of suttee, and established the principle of equality before the law. Much of that legal system and mindset remains, but so does the dowry system which appears to be at least partly responsible for the belief that some if not most or all women are second class human beings. This is difficult to believe of a country that had a woman prime minister in the 1980s, and especially in view of the Bollywood phenomenon which has produced a string of glamorous, highly-paid and idolised actresses. In the West, young girls are treasured, especially by their fathers (Daddy's girl); in India, a baby girl can be seen as a burden. Strange world.
The most telling scene in this documentary is the one where she meets the lawyer who has been appointed to defend three of the alleged gang rapists of the as-yet-still-unidentified Delhi victim, a man who appears to blame the victim for this horrendous crime. "Any dog can bite you", he says. Actually he goes or appears to go much further than that, but in spite of his flawless English, something is lost in translation, a translation that has less to do with language than the way he looks at the world. What he really means to say is that people should take precautions against crime, a bit like if you go on holiday and leave your house unlocked, you deserve to be burgled. No one deserves to be burgled of course, and certainly no woman deserves to be raped, but most reasonable people will understand what he means, although it doesn't sound quite so reasonable the way he says it.
Needles to say, Radha takes a slightly different view; the perpetrators should be hanged. One has already committed suicide, but if the others are indeed hanged—those if any who are convicted—it would send a strong message to any future gang rapists that would undoubtedly be reflected in the crime statistics.
Unlike the lunatic fringe, Radha keeps a sense of proportion about what is known in India as "Eve teasing"—a man giving a woman the eye is not comparable with rape, even if sometimes the man who does the looking has something else in mind.
The most shocking scene in this documentary is one that reduced Radha to tears, and may do the same to you if you are of a sensitive nature. The photograph below is of a girl who aged 14 was doused with acid by a youth she rejected. Damned both ways—"dress like a slut" and you're asking to be raped; show modesty, and this could be the result. See those tubes in her nose? They're there because she can't eat through her mouth. Yes, there are some things even worse than rape; Landen Gambill supporters take note.
A screengrab from the BBC documentary ‘India: A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman’ that shows some o...
A screengrab from the BBC documentary ‘India: A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman’ that shows some of the horrific injuries inflicted on a 14 year old acid attack victim.
The maximum sentence her attacker faces currently is 10 years. In the UK, a life sentence would have been a near certainty, while in Iran...
Before she left home in the UK, Radha was given some telling advice by her mother. Be careful in India, don't trust anybody because "I" don't trust anybody over there. Imagine the reaction if a white woman had said that, but here it passes. In fact two words that were not used in this documentary were racism and sexism, the latter because gang rapes and throwing acid in women's faces are not sexual issues, they are inhuman practices that cannot and should not be tolerated anywhere, and which must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and where proven warrant exemplary sentences.
As for racism, this is something certain self-styled social justice advocates never stop whining about, and which we are forever being told is endemic in Britain. The fact that Radha Bedi and so many other Asians vote with their feet gives the lie to that left wing fantasy, but as the Stephen Lawrence case continues to prove, some erroneous beliefs can never be refuted however powerful the argument, logic or evidence against them.
For those who can receive it, India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman is currently on iplayer.
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