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lunedì 2 novembre 2015

The Rape Epidemic: Why Men Rape

In a still from Leslee Udwin’s “India’s Daughter,” protesters are seen marching after news spread of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh’s gang rape. The documentary was released in U.S. theaters Oct. 23. (Assassin Films photo)

What inspired documentarian (and overall badass) Leslee Udwin to make the film India's Daughter was not only the gruesome 2012 rape of medical student Jyoti Singh but the public outcry that quickly followed—protests on an unprecedented scale by women and men demanding an end to the poor treatment of women in India. 

The harrowing narrative showcasing dissenting opinions and the legal proceedings surrounding Jyoti's case make Udwin's movie incredibly powerful—and not an easy film to watch. As Susan Sarandon put it, "it is an assault on your mind."
Last night, Udwin was interviewed by Former Malawi President Dr. Joyce Hilda Banda, at a screening sponsored by #WomenWhoLaunch’s Melissa Cohn. Here's what they had to say about the documentary—and how they believe we all can make a difference.
Udwin on what inspired her to make the film: "One in five women in this world is raped—myself included—and I took it personally. These people were out there fighting for my rights, and it had occurred to me, I had never seen another country that had come out with so much passion and so much tenacity—these protesters were out there for over a month, and you saw the ferocious crackdown that had such forbearance. That's what took me there. India was leading the world by example."
President Bunda on fighting for women's rights: "I am a woman leader, I've had the privilege of being an activist, fighting for women's rights. But I believe that the possibility of changing situations of women and children rests upon us that are women leaders in that part of the world. We need to take the first step. When I saw what happened in India, I know what is causing it—I need to step out, articulate those issues, find partners like my good friend Leslee, and fight together. And we can stop this, I know it can stop, but it has to happen between men andwomen. So, Udwin, tell me, what was your high point of making this documentary?"
Despite raising awareness, the problem hasn't gone away: "The high point, if I may, was this: There have been of course many extraordinary moments, Meryl Streep standing before an audience a week ago saying 'I'm on this campaign for the long haul until this film wins the Oscar.' Sean Penn, standing before an audience in L.A. last week, saying 'I didn't realize films were important until i saw this film,'" Udwin says. "But here's the real high point: as much as I love those moments, last weekend, a two and a half year old baby girl and a five year old girl were lured away by two men, offered toffees, and gang-raped

The weekend before, on the Day of the Girl, a four-year-old girl was taken by three adult men, gang raped. And she was laying on the Day of the Girl in the same hospital Jyoti Singh lay in, having a three-hour operation. 

As a result of that, protesters came onto the street again. And my Google Alert last weekend showed me a picture, and they came out, and there were men there. And I looked at the placards that three beautiful Indian women were holding. One said, 'Don't Tell Me What to Wear, Teach Your Sons Not to Rape.' And the other said, 'Thank you, Leslee Udwin'. That's my high point."
President Bunda on how we can start to effect change: "So what are the solutions? There's so much more that needs to be done. But first there must be women at presidential levels standing up and saying, enough is enough. Number two, I think there must be change of mind-set. It must start at the household. What I think is critical is that women must also take responsibility. They have the privilege of bringing up our boys and girls. It is the socialization at a household level of boys between one and 10 that is influencing what they become later on. So women need to take responsibility, to make sure we are treating our boys and girls as equals."
"For me there's only one solution: start again, with a clean slate," Udwin says. "Change the mindset, and there's only one way you can do that: education. I got three particular insights on this journey that have informed what I now see searingly as the solution. Number one (and they're all reversals of expectations, every single one of them): I thought I was meeting monsters, the media prepared me for that. Not one of the rapists I sat and interviewed were monsters, not one. They were normal, ordinary, unremarkable human beings. The second shock I got, was that I imagined that at least one of them would express at least for one second out of 31 hours, some regret. Not one second of remorse, from any of them. Why? Because they don't believe they've done wrong. These men are programmed to believe that there are certain patriarchal dictates that pertain to a girl. We are responsible for it it, society is responsible, these men are not the rotten apples in the barrel, it would be so comforting to believe they are. The barrel is rotten, the barrel rots the apples. Of the seven rapists I interviewed, only one of them had finished secondary school"
It is up to every single one of us to spin that barrel around, to educate the men and women of this world on the power of equality. Leslee continues to work with the U.N. on the Global Human Rights Curriculum

The Rape Epidemic: India's Daughter Filmmaker Leslee Udwin and Former Malawi President Joyce Banda on How to Inspire Change Alexandra Schwartz 31 10 2015

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — The gang rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh in 2012 was an event that shook India to its core and caused countless men and women to flood the harsh winter streets of Delhi for a month-long protest calling for justice.

Inspired by these protests, British filmmaker Leslee Udwin got on a plane to India to document and amplify the voice of the protesters in a documentary that would become her directorial debut, “India's Daughter,” which actors Meryl Streep and Sean Penn, among others, are endorsing for the “Best Documentary” Oscar award.

The documentary saw a week-long screening in New York beginning Oct. 23, a week-long screening in Los Angeles from Oct. 30, and a screening in San Francisco Nov. 3, with a more widespread release scheduled in the near future.
“It was a compulsion,” Udwin told India-Westby phone from Los Angeles. “I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t get on a plane and go out there and make this film.”
Interviewing the rapists, their families and lawyers, and Jyoti's parents and friends, the hour-long documentary looks to answer the question, “Why do men rape?
“To get that answer, you can’t go to books,” Udwin said. “You have to go to the source of the action, you have to ask the men who rape what their attitudes toward women are, who the significant women in their lives have been, and how they’ve been treated by them.”
Armed with a host of questions honed over a month with the help of psychiatrists, the filmmaker was able to gain access to the six rapists, with the blessing of the director general of prisons in Delhi, to learn about their views about women, their notions of manhood and their ideas about the roles of men and women in society.
“If you want to change these men, you have to hear what they have to say, you have to understand them,” Udwin told India-West.
In the documentary, Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists, insists that Jyoti was only brutalized, because she fought back, and women should not fight back when men rape them, adding that women who are out late at night are at fault for being raped.
At various points in the film, Mukesh says things such as, “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” and, “When being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after doing her, and only hit the boy.”
Udwin said this mindset is not only a problem in India but is ubiquitous the world over, though it expresses itself in varying degrees, pointing out how one in three girls between the ages of 13 and 17 in the U.K. have experienced sexual violence while one in four girls on college campuses in the U.S. have been raped. 
Udwin said she had assumed a lack of education had something to do with the rapists' mindsets, since only one had finished secondary school, and the others had dropped out of school around the ages of 12 and 14.
However, she was shocked to learn that their lawyers, who had the highest possible access to education, seemed to share their trend of thinking.
M.L. Sharma, a defense lawyer for the rapists, says in the film, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
The filmmaker said that realization was the greatest insight of the film, that it's not just about access to education, but the content of education as well.
“We are teaching them (children) only to read, write and count,” Udwin said. “We are only educating their heads, we are not educating their hearts.”
Now she is leaving filmmaking to work on a three-year campaign to design a global curriculum integrating human rights education.
“This is my directorial debut and directorial swan song in one,” Udwin told India-West. “I may return one day, but I will certainly die in the attempt to get countries to adopt this curriculum.”
Working with a committee of global experts and visionaries in education, psychology, gender and human rights, Udwin said they are designing and constructing in minute detail a global curriculum that teaches empathy, respect and moral values to children.
Empathy is not a natural ingredient in human nature, she said, and thus must be taught, practiced and exercised regularly “to help us understand that every human being, and not just us, has value.”
She explained how when women are allowed to meaningfully participate in society, such as in decision-making processes in the economic, political and social realms, both men and women benefit.
“This isn’t about pushing the men out,” Udwin asserted, “It’s about bringing women in.”
Currently, Udwin said, we are encouraging a rape culture and the rapists are a product and reflection of “what we have taught them and allowed them and encouraged them to think.”
“We may as well bloody well give them rapist's manuals when they hit puberty,” she said. “We know they’re watching pornography, which we know dehumanizes women.”
The filmmaker pointed to the incident a few weeks ago when the Indian government lifted a ban it had placed on roughly 900 pornography Web sites after one week of outrage on social media.
At the same time, her own documentary has been banned in India since March 5, shortly before it was supposed to premiere on TV March 8.
“What kind of values, what kind of priorities, what kind of message does that send out to the world?” Udwin asked.
She was told the film was banned because it “would lead to a disruption of law and order” and cause protests. Two Indian activists are petitioning to have the ban lifted on Udwin's behalf since she cannot petition the government herself as a non-Indian citizen.
Outside of India, the filmmaker explained to India-West how “India's Daughter” has been having a dramatic impact on people, bringing them to confess their own accounts of raping or being raped.
Udwin recalled how at one screening in Brazil, a man came up to her and told her that he was one human being before seeing the film and another afterward and wanted to help.
After receiving a few suggestions, the man, who is the head of personnel at a large IT company comprised mostly of men, has started hosting workshops and bringing in female experts who can talk about “what it is to feel completely undervalued, to be objectified, (and) to see their own image in these porn sites.”
Everyone can do something, but the most important thing, Udwin said, is to keep the conversation going.
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