Why is everybody talking about India’s Daughter?

The BBC brought forward the broadcast of the harrowing documentary about the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi - against the wishes of the Indian government


What is India’s Daughter?


India’s Daughter is a documentary that was due to be broadcast on BBC4 on Sunday, which is International Women’s Day. However, the BBC decided to bring the transmission date forward and so it aired last night.

Why bring the transmission date forward?

In a statement the BBC said it took the decision because of “the intense level of interest”. It wanted “to enable viewers to see this incredibly powerful documentary at the earliest opportunity.”

Why so much interest?

Because it’s been banned in India, which was also due to show it on International Women’s Day, the same day as Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Canada. Delhi authorities secured a court injunction late on Tuesday, blocking the broadcast.

India’s parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu declared: “We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.”


India’s Daughter is about the brutal gang rape and murder of 23 year-old medical student Jyoti Singh in Delhi in December 2012, which ignited protests throughout the country and appalled the international community. 

The 286,000 viewers who tuned into BBC4 last night were especially shocked by interviews with one of the men convicted of the crime, Mukesh Singh (pictured above).

Singh is now in prison and waiting for the supreme court to hear his appeal against his death sentence. He suggests his victim would not have been killed if she had not fought back against her attackers and behaved like “a decent girl”.

He says: “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.”

The Indian government has also objected to these interviews in particular.

Did the Indian government really try to stop the BBC broadcasting it? 

It would appear so, yes.

Today the BBC’s director of television, Danny Cohen, published a letter sent to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting “in response to a letter [from the ministry] raising concerns about the BBC’s broadcast of the Storyville documentary India’s Daughter”. 

Cohen’s letter states: “We appreciate your concern but we feel India’s Daughter has a strong public interest in raising awareness of a global problem and the BBC is satisfied with the editorial standards of the film. We have also received assurances from the production company that they gained access through the proper channels in order to conduct what was an extensive and considered interview.”

“The remarks of the perpetrator are set among a number of other views, including those of the parents, ex- or present members of the judiciary, witnesses and personal testimonies. The purpose of including the interview with the perpetrator was to gain an insight into the mind-set of a rapist with a view to understanding the wider problem of rape and not just in India.

“We do not feel the film as currently edited could ever be construed as derogatory to women or an affront to their dignity. Indeed, it highlights the challenges women in India face today.”

Has the BBC received any other complaints?

32 so far, and four viewers have registered their support of the film.

How did the Indian government react to the BBC broadcasting it?

According to The Times of India, the Indian government is considering legal action.

“Whatever action we have to take, the home ministry will go ahead and do that,” home minister Rajnath Singh told reporters earlier today. “All I can say is that whatever is required, will be done. If conditions have been violated, if they have been violated, there will be appropriate action.”

It is unclear what action could be taken as the BBC is beyond India’s legal jurisdiction.

What happens now?

The British filmmaker, Leslee Udwin, has appealed to the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to overturn the ban and “deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film”.

She said, “India should be embracing this film – not blocking it with a kneejerk hysteria without even seeing it. This was an opportunity for India to continue to show the world how much has changed since this heinous crime. Sadly… the banning of the film will see India isolated in the eyes of the world. It’s a counterproductive move.”

“Whoever is behind this – please see the film and then come to a conclusion.” 

Many Indians have managed to watch the documentary on YouTube but some links to the film appear to have been blocked after the government asked the video site do so.

Watch India’s Daughter on iPlayer


Read Radio Times’ preview of India’s Daughter