The Indian government’s commitment to the cause of curbing sexual violence against women has become questionable. On Wednesday, India banned the broadcast of the documentary “India’s Daughter”; the film exploring the gang-rape of the 23-year old student, Joyoti, on a moving bus in New Delhi. While the government may have dubbed her “Nirbhya” – fearless – and started a judicial review of rape law, it still is unwilling to tell her full story. Once again, showing how it would rather sweep an ugly truth under the rug rather than acknowledge it and deal with bitter issues.

For the truth is ugly; the documentary discusses how empowerment over women is an embedded notion of our society and sexual violence, its manifestation. It shows one of the convicts, completely unfazed by the list of the victims’ gruesome injuries recited to him, showing absolutely no remorse for his actions, saying that “a decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape”. The documentary shows a facet of Indian society – in fact, the larger South Asian society – that is a source of extreme embarrassment for it. Yet, international shame shouldn’t be the problem, rape should be; something that the ban forgets. It is estimated that a woman is raped every 21 minutes in India, yet this one caused such outrage because the details became known. The media and the government stopped hiding behind the concept of ‘taboo’ and discussed rape with the public; prompting more women to come forward and report rape cases. Banning the documentary keeps the rape away from the national narrative. Furthermore, rape thrives in a community bound by strict rules of honour, duty and taboo, where women are told to keep quiet about the crime, the government’s ruling reinforces that notion. Without confronting the existence of an unequal mindset, the things set in motion in Delhi, positive things, will be undone.

The ban is not only a curtailment of the freedom of expression, it is done on the flimsiest of pretexts, highlighting the flaws in the government’s approach. According to the government a documentary exposing a growing sexual violence problem is objectionable under Section 509 (outraging the modesty of women), yet the countless ‘item numbers’ churned out by Bollywood, where scantily clad dancing women are ogled at by a legion of men are fine. Objectification which fuels this violence is permitted but discussing the violence is not.

In an ironic turn of events though, banning the documentary is turning out to be the one thing that will ensure that the maximum amount of people know about it, and perhaps see it too.