India wants global ban on gang rape documentary video

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A BBC documentary on the gang rape in India has been banned by the government.

Update: 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.

Leslee Udwin's "India's Daughter" features an interview with Mukesh Singh, one of four men sentenced to death for the rape and torture of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in December 2012.

Comments released to the media show that Singh blames the victim for the crime. He says that women are more responsible than men for rape.

ANTI-RAPE PROTEST: Protesters at an anti-rape demonstration in Delhi last year.
Reuters

ANTI-RAPE PROTEST: Protesters at an anti-rape demonstration in Delhi last year.

"We just forwarded the court order and asked them (YouTube) to comply," an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology told Reuters.

It was still possible to view the documentary on websites such as YouTube after British broadcaster BBC aired it outside India on Wednesday.

Singh's comments have caused an uproar on social media and reignited a debate about gender inequality in Asia's third-largest economy.

RESPECT WOMEN: Protesters demonstrate against the rape of a female taxi passenger in Delhi.
Reuters

RESPECT WOMEN: Protesters demonstrate against the rape of a female taxi passenger in Delhi.

"We believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society," said a spokeswoman for Google, which owns the video sharing site YouTube. "...we continue to remove content that is illegal or violates our community guidelines, once notified."

India has banned the screening of a BBC documentary about a gang rape, and wants to get it blocked elsewhere.

In about 30 hours of interviews, some in South Asia's largest prison complex, filmmaker Leslee Udwin spoke to a man convicted of a fatal rape 2012. The convict blamed the victim and showed no remorse in the hour-long film titled India's Daughter.

India's government said Udwin had violated the terms of an agreement to conduct interviews in the prison, a charge she denies.

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"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.

India was thrust into the global spotlight after the 2012 attack triggered street protests and an unprecedented debate about sexual violence in the world's largest democracy. The incident prompted the government to tighten laws, while political parties made women's safety a central issue.

Udwin's documentary looks at atrocities and attitudes against women and girls. It was aired on BBC Four this week.

"India should be embracing this film -- not blocking it with a knee jerk hysteria without even seeing it," Udwin wrote on NDTV television channel's website.

"Whoever is behind this - please see the film and then come to a conclusion."

BRUTAL ASSAULT

In December 2012, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, whose name cannot be published under Indian laws as they forbid the identification of rape victims, was returning home from the cinema with a male friend. Six drunken men, including a teenager, attacked them on a bus, and took turns raping her.

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.

The documentary features an interview with Mukesh Singh, the bus driver, who was among the convicted and faces a death sentence. He says he stayed at the wheel throughout the attack and did not participate. DNA tests submitted to the court countered the claim.

'JUST BE SILENT'

"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."

A.P. Singh, a lawyer for Mukesh Singh, said the accused isn't supposed to give any interviews or comments outside of the court.

"While I partly agree with Mukesh's interview on immoral pre-marital relationships and the misuse of anti-rape laws, I don't agree with any of his comments on the deceased," A.P. Singh said.

"Any comment on the deceased is not justified socially and legally."

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. Udwin violated the terms agreed upon when the government approved her interview request, he said.

BBC DEFENDS

The film complied with the BBC's editorial guidelines, the broadcaster said in a statement.

"This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and co-operation of the victim's parents, provides a revealing insight into a horrific crime that sent shock waves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women," the BBC said in a statement.

"The film handles the issue responsibly and we are confident the program fully complies with our editorial guidelines."

Reported rapes in India surged 35 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, police records show. It's unclear if incidents rose or women were just more willing to speak about what was earlier considered taboo.

A New Delhi court in 2013 sentenced four of the attackers including Mukesh Singh to death; another hanged himself in prison and the other is in a home for juvenile offenders as per Indian law. Death sentences are restricted for crimes considered the "rarest of the rare" in India and can be delayed for years by appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court or a clemency petition to the president.

The convicts, who all told they court they were innocent, have appealed their sentence in India's top court, which has suspended the execution. The victim's family, also interviewed in the documentary, has criticized the delay.

 - Bloomberg

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