On April 20th 2015, Design Tinkering Club, NYU Greenhouse and the Department of Technology Management and Innovation (SoE) co-hosted the screening of India’s Daughter, an award-winning film directed and produced by Leslee Udwin of Assassin Films and distributed by Women Make Movies. We were fortunate to have Leslee Udwin, director of the documentary, join us to address questions from the viewers after the screening.
The feature-length documentary India’s Daughter details the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang rape that shook the Indian subcontinent and sparked heated dialogue on violence against women and girls around the world. India’s Daughter has continued to spark more controversy since the Indian government has now banned the film from airing in that country. The film features detailed interviews with the perpetrators of the crime, uncovering attitudes symptomatic of a culture of impunity in which violence against women goes unchecked. Exposing and understanding these points of view is critical to addressing the issue of violence against women in society. India’s Daughter reveals the shocking, engrained cultural norms and viewpoints on women that persist globally.
While the audience was limited (mostly due to the exam period), the conversation was intense and welcome by Leslee who started the Q&A by inviting all questions, even critiques, as for her open dialogue is at the hear of changing behaviors and mores.
The dialogue, open and passionate, went back and forth among students and Leslee. It was heart-touching and inspiring to see Leslee’s passion towards the cause and her efforts to fight for Women Rights. “The rapists are not the disease – they are symptoms,” said Leslee Udwin, “Gender-inequality is the primary tumor and rape, trafficking, child marriage, female foeticide, honor killings and so on, are the metastases. If we wish to tackle this issue effectively, we must address these attitudes and the mindset they inform.”
A very crucial point she made that evening was about the role played by society, by each and every on of us in perpetuating these sorts of inequalities. She opposed the death sentence on the grounds that it wasn’t a few individuals, a few ‘apples’ that were rotten and just had to be isolated from society or removed from it permanently. No, it was the ‘barrel’ that was rotten. It was up to us to put a stop to gender inequality in our own families, in our homes, in our communities, and workplaces through education. This has the cumulative effect of preventing gender based violence through a very simple mechanism – by helping people understand that individuals are equal, and then the artificial constructs of gender, race, and class can have no role in separating us.
Several asked her what motivated her to make this documentary in this particular context. Her answer was immediate: the protests that started right after the rape, where thousands of people gathered in New Delhi and all over the country despite the violent reactions of the government. Leslee claimed that this was the first time she saw such a commitment to request change and gender equality. That led her to do make the film, and now to start a movement for gender equality. Indeed, because she believes – rightly – that the problem is endemic and requires deep changes in values all around the world, she is now engaged in trying to develop educational programs around the issues.
The evening sparkled so many thoughts, inspirations and questions, that what was supposed to be a 60 minutes of Q&A went over time and continued outside of the Dibner Library at the SoE, with Leslee and students debating about gender equality and freedom of speech. The NYU Community wishes her all the luck, love and support for her future endeavors.
Design Tinkering Club