NEW DELHI >> One of the men sentenced to death for raping and killing a woman in a brutal 2012 gang attack on a New Delhi bus said in a documentary that if their victim had not fought back she would not have been killed.
Instead, the 23-year-old woman should have remained silent, said Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus for much of the time that the woman was being attacked.
"Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her,’" he said in the 2013 interview for a documentary being released Sunday.
Many people in India have long blamed women for being raped, but the attack on a young medical student in the nation’s capital was shocking in its brutality and galvanized public outrage about sexual violence and perceived government and societal indifference to it.
"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," Singh said, according to the transcripts released Tuesday. "A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night …. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes."
The woman and her friend were returning home from seeing a movie at an upscale mall when they were tricked by the men into getting on the bus, which they’d taken out for a joyride. The attackers beat her friend and took turns raping the woman. They penetrated her with a rod, leaving severe internal injuries that caused her death.
Singh and three other men were convicted of murder and rape in 2013 in an unusually fast trial for India’s chaotic justice system. They confessed to the attack but later retracted their confessions, saying they’d been tortured into admitting their involvement. The appeals against their death sentences are pending in the Supreme Court.
Amid the public outcry, India’s government rushed legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for police officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.
In the interview, Singh suggested that the attack was to teach the woman and her male friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night. He also reiterated that rape victims should not fight back: "She should just be silent and allow the rape."
The death penalty, he said, would make things even more dangerous for women. "Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her," Singh said.
Singh’s interview is from the documentary "India’s Daughter" by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin. It will be shown on March 8, International Women’s Day, in India, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries.
Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said Singh in his comments showed no remorse for the crime.
Changing the mindset in India is not easy, with many politicians and religious leaders encouraging conservative forces by dictating how women should dress and enforcing strict social norms about gender roles, she said.
"The solution (lies) in more and more women taking up jobs in various fields and the government creating an environment of safety and security for them in trains, buses and public places," Sangwan said.
A spokesman at the New Delhi jail objected to the filmmakers releasing the documentary without their approval.
A spokesman for Tihar Jail, where the interview was filmed, said Udwin had agreed to allow them to screen the footage before it was released.
"We want to see the documentary as it can be screened only after it was approved by authorities," said jail spokesman Mukesh Prasad.
Udwin, however, said she had obtained necessary clearances from jail authorities as well as India’s home ministry for her documentary and for interviewing the convicts in the prison.
"I had first submitted an unedited version of the documentary and later an edited version as demanded by prison authorities," Udwin told reporters in New Delhi.
She expressed surprise at the jail spokesman’s claim and said she had not received any communication from prison authorities on those lines.