The Girl Who Lost Her Name

"The girl who lost her name" asks a fundamental question --why should hundreds of thousands of women and girls, some as young as three and five, disappear into anonymity after being raped? Is it a crime to be raped? Why should a victim feel shame and allow her face to be broken into a million pixels?
The director was inspired by the horrific gang rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi on December 16, 2012 leading to a most painful death two weeks later. Social and judicial restrictions forced the Indian media to name her after ideals --Nirbhaya or "The Fearless"; Damini or "The Indomitable". But the father of the girl privately told journalists that he saw no reason to conceal his daughter's name because she was not the one to blame. Gradually, this set off a trend across India -- victims of rape, even five-year-olds, began to earn new names after being raped. In their interviews to the makers of "The girl" most of the victims and their families express reservations about this practice. They admit that the culture of slut shaming victims is an immutable truth. At another level, the director discovers the rising public angst against sexual offenders.
The film's opens with a show of protest -- mellow at first but gradually quite aggressive -- directed at the principal of a school who is accused of forcing himself on a student and groping her. He proceeded to slut shame the child by extracting favorable signatures from other girl students. Suddenly, we see the boys of the school rise in spontaneity and threaten the school's authorities with grave public relations consequences if the principal is not removed. This is a growing trend in India which got kick-started, without any political backing, in the aftermath of December 16, 2012.
The family of Nirbhaya is shown awaiting justice (later four of the accused were sentenced to death). Her parents break down while recalling their daughter and hold up, for the first time ever, a framed photograph of their daughter. "She had done no wrong," he reiterates.
The central spine of the film is the reflection of Bharti Ali, a woman's rights activist who shares her inner-most thoughts on the new vigor reflected in the Indian government's moves to hit sexual predators hard. She rues the persistence of a large number of slippages in the system which explains the low conviction rate. What happens to a girl after she is raped? Systemic weaknesses, combined with general apathy, hand out an experience often more harrowing than the rape itself. Thanks to her, the camera is allowed into a meeting of police officers, both men and women, organized to deliberate on the effects of the new laws legislated by India's parliamentarians to pacify public opinion roused by the Nirbhaya tragedy. Significantly, the policemen showed no inclination to change their old belief systems (one even demanded that reporting on rape be banned because it was hurting India's "image"). The women officers, on the other hand, are so intimidated by their male colleagues, so ill-trained and themselves abused at home, that it is no wonder that the implementation of gender-sensitive laws is far short of expectations.

There are moments of great paradox. Two girls who had fought on the streets to ward off rapists, were forced by society's prejudices to turn their backs to the camera while giving interviews. One of them tells the maker of this film how as a woman she felt pity for the wife of her could-have-been rapist. This is a universal phenomenon. A rape victim is often forced by society's skeptical attitude to prove her goodness and purity.
In Kamduni village of West Bengal state there occurred in 2013 a most gruesome rape followed by murder. The victim was a 19-year-old student who walked 19 Km each way to college from her home each day. The "infrastructure for rape", a term that finds expression in the film, is omnipresent. Weak or non-existent policing, ill-lit streets, dominating politicians, weak law enforcement --all combine to create perfect conditions for rape. This was amply evident in Kamduni. Interviews with the villagers reveal how determined they are in their backing of the cause for justice. That's mostly because they are sure that she was "pure", "never had anything to do with men". The brother of the girl willingly gives out her name. He counter-shames those who try to shame his sister.
Little Chutki of Delhi, who is a little more than three, can't explain her attack in court. Her family is distraught. It is certain that her rapist, who managed the day care center she went to, would get away exploiting a window left open for perpetrators of sexual crimes by India's law makers. The laws demand that a rape victim, however tiny, gives a full statement in court regardless how many times she'd have repeated her trauma earlier. As it happens, most of the cases are heard several months after the incidents and by that time the little victims are unable to recount in detail what had happened. Her parents break down in tears narrating how neighbors did not even spare Chutki of innuendo. They have been forced to move from home to home and even her older sister had to suffer humiliation before her teachers.
A constant is Nirbhaya. Everybody has heard of her. But media, society and government have not learned anything from that tragedy. That deja vu is broken by Suzette Jordan, dubbed the "Park Street victim" in the media. She gave an interview to a TV channel announcing her intention to show her face and reveal her name. The newscaster who interviewed her recalls the "revolutionary moment" for Indian society. He says this is not a way to live, but the way to live.


film details

Name of the Film:
The Girl Who Lost Her Name
Udayan Namboodiri
Production Company:
Aurora Film Corporation P. Ltd.
Release Date:
December 31, 2013