Violence, Anonymity & Justice
The sole identity of a victim of rape in the Indian society is akin to that of an Untouchable. This observation has been made by the Apex Court of the country. After hearing a batch of public interest pleas related to the identity of the rape victim, the Supreme Court of India recently stated that it’s important for the media and the concerned authorities to keep the victim’s name confidential. It is to be noted that the pleas had cited the growing instances of the media reporting rapes in a way that eventually allowed the public to learn the victims’ identities.
The Supreme Court (SC) Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that the print, electronic and social media should consider the mentality of the Indian society while dealing with reports on rapes and other sexual violence against women. The two judges clarified that “if the victim is dead or of unsound mind, her identity should not be revealed even with an authorisation from her next of kin unless a competent authority, which at present is the Sessions Judge, decides that the circumstances justify disclosure”. The Bench specifically said: “FIRs (First Information Report) – relating to rape or to sexual offences against children – will not name the victims and will not be put in the public domain”.
The Supreme Court of India
Indeed, it’s an important and serious verdict. Any democratic nation gives utmost importance to the rights of rape victims in the modern world… and the importance is a few times more in the Indian society! It’s because the gender inequality and class discrimination are so strong in the patriarchal social structure in the South Asian country. In India, it’s difficult for the victims of rape to get justice. Even if victims in urban areas get justice, rural victims are worst sufferers. As soon as the name and identity of the victim are published, tremendous political and social efforts are made to hide the culprit. Keeping in mind all these issues, the SC Bench said that it would be crucial to keep identity of the victim secret in order to ensure neutral and fair investigation.
The common view of the Indian society towards women helps understand the need to maintain this secrecy in a better way. Unfortunately, the majority of the Indians believe that the victim of rape is not a casualty of a crime, but the cause. The Indians usually discuss about the character of the victim, her dress code (during the crime) and, the place and time of the crime after such an event takes place. The Indians also try to find out whether the victim follows the code of conduct set by the society when the crime is committed… as if the incident should not be considered as crime in case the victim doesn’t follow the social code of conduct. In such a society, confidentiality is important.
The SC has further observed that if the identity of a rape victim can be kept secret, then she leads a normal life, doesn’t face humiliation at work place and gets rid of the problem of social untouchability quite easily.
It’s the duty of a modern state to help the victims of rape get back their mental and physical strength after experiencing the serious untoward incident. The Supreme Court has once again proved that it’s serious about the status of women, especially the victims of rape and other sexual violence, in India.
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