Mankind: misnomer or call for action

I was listening to the radio when I heard documentary-maker Leslee Udwin talk about her film ‘India’s Daughter’ and her decision to leave India.

The film, made to be screened on International Women’s Day – #womensday – reported on a violent and horrifying rape of a student that led to her death from the appalling internal injuries she suffered.

In it, one of those involved, Mukesh Singh suggests his victim would not have been killed if she had not fought back against her attackers and appears to blame her for not behaving 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.”

If ever a radio interview stopped me from moving and took my breath away it was this.

But there was worse, the lawyer defending this man defended and even promoted his actions by saying: “In our culture, there is no place for a woman.” The other lawyer said if his daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities he would take them to his farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.

All of this in India, a nation that likes to think of itself as civilised, a democracy and fast developing and accepted for the like of our business and investment. The response from the Indian Government – to ban the film, to silence the matter and to enforce the female documentary maker to flee the country for fear of arrest.

There are no words to describe how this made me feel. Words like horror, shame, anger and any other just don’t do justice to the brutality and evil being perpetrated by some men against women.

Leslee Edwin perhaps describes it best by saying: “My encounter with Singh and four other rapists left me feeling like my soul had been dipped in tar, and there were no cleaning agents in the world that could remove the indelible stain.”

The one word it did get me thinking about was ‘mankind.’ That word is a noun that is about human beings considered collectively – the human race and researching its synonyms throws up: the human race, man, humanity, human beings, humans, Homo sapiens, humankind, the human species, people, men and women.

In a past archaic form the word did also mean men, as distinct from women. But break the term down and you have two distinct and interesting words: ‘man’ and ‘kind.’ The latter used as an adjective means ‘having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.’

International Women’s Day is a celebration of women and their achievements. It is also a time when the injustice from the ‘glass ceiling’ and cases of inequality will come to the fore, where the terrible crimes against women can be highlighted but also the incredible ‘voice’ and roles women hold distinct from men.

For me, there is one thing everyone can do today – male and female – that is to reflect on what kindness to our fellow humans means and consider how best we can always be kind in its truest sense. It may appear a naive notion to hope that a nation state like India and its lawyers and Police and judiciary learn this, but its a sentiment we must work for, and there are examples of what can be done.

The organisation I work for, the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, is undertaking a project called Women Building Peace. The project will today celebrate International Women’s Day by bringing together women from across the world, many of whom have faced violent conflict in their countries, communities and themselves personally. We will be helping them to ‘raise their voices for peace.’ It is only through all of mankind joining together to raise our voices and take action that we will bring about change.

Documentary maker Leslee Udwin is a brave woman that has done just that. She has used her film making skill at great personal cost to raise her voice and by doing so has done a great favour to women of the world in highlighting barbaric actions and attitudes of a number of males whilst also shaming those in power who sit impotent or worse condone such acts by their inactivity and cover ups.

Today, I will be part of International Women’s Day and my intention will be to display kindness as I want to show that the men that Leslee encountered will not win through and that we must challenge and stop this sort of attitude and behaviour.

If we all did just one thing for International Women’s Day then it would help immensely – maybe by just tweeting or putting an item on your Facebook you could help and use the hashtag #womenwagingpeace or maybe you want to do more – on our website is a donate page for just £10 we will provide a woman with our Language for Peace Handbook. If you e-mail my colleague expressing support then we will send you a special memento of this day.

Please support International Women’s Day and #womenwagingpeace


Nick Taylor is Chief Executive of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace and on International Women’s Day will attend an event to support 40 women on the Women Bulding peace Project in looking at ‘raising their voices for peace.’ The views expressed in this article are that of the author only.

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