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Police, Govt & Media Gang Rape

It’s shocking how our police, government and news channels handle such a sensitive issue that can destroy a woman’s life.

As if it’s not disturbing enough to read about a girl being gang raped by four men. As if it isn’t disgusting enough to discover that this is the second time this has happened in a year to the same girl by the same group of men; it’s a hundred times worse to see how our police, government and news channels handle such a sensitive issue that can and will destroy (if it already hasn’t) a woman’s life.

Take the recent Noida gang rape case. In a shocking display of complete lack of empathy towards the victim or any respect for the law, the police actually named the defendant, in what they later called a ‘clerical’ error. So not only has she suffered twice at the hands of rapists, now thanks to this ‘clerical’ error (for which no head has rolled), her name, address and probably school and whereabouts are common knowledge – for the whole mohalla to know, talk, discuss and snigger about. All this after finally having the guts to come out and file a complaint against the accused. And let’s get real. We all know what our society thinks of rape victims.

Later – more shocking news. Once again an alleged rape victim was made to suffer.  When asked about the gang rape of a woman on a train in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee claimed the victim fabricated the story. So much for any empathy from the government, and that too from a woman Chief Minister! Has Ms. Banerjee gone and met the victim, or is she just trying to deny that any such thing happened on a train in her state? Must be a Left conspiracy! This isn’t the first time Ms. Banerjee has called a rape victim a liar. On February 17th, 2012 the Kolkata police claimed that there were ‘technical discrepancies’ in the rape complaint filed by an Anglo-Indian woman; a state minister questioned the morality of the woman and alleged that the complaint was fabricated to extort money; and our great Chief Minister called her rape story “cooked up” and asked “where is the evidence?” What evidence would satisfy her? A recording perhaps… West Bengal is clearly the place all rapists should head, since no one believes the victims. At least no one in the current government.

And then. The unkindest cut of all – comes the Times Now report on this rape – with the anchor’s voice going on and on hysterically building up the supposed suspense, with shots of Mamta Banerjee in a loop, along with the interview of the rape victim with her identity concealed. Just how was her identity concealed? By putting a thin, black band that barely covered her eyes (forget about her face), and then putting her entire byte on TV in a loop, while leaving her face and shoulders exposed.

Is there no law to regulate how the rights and the dignity of rape victims can be protected on news channels?  I mean forget about the police and the politicians. We (unfortunately) can’t really expect anything different from them. But a national news channel like Times Now? Do they have no sense? Do they really think that putting that little band on a rape victims eyes is good enough to mask her identity and protect her from the certain backlash that exposing her will have? Shouldn’t the news media know better?

According to the Norms of Journalistic Conduct as defined by the Press Council of India – “While reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.” Is anyone following these rules? And who is enforcing them? You can file a complaint with the Press Council, but how long it will take to get justice, if any, is anybody’s guess. Besides, by then the damage is done.

According to the BBC guidelines “All victims of rape and other sex crimes, including children, are automatically guaranteed anonymity for life from the moment they make a complaint that they are the victim of a sex crime…These restrictions only apply to identifying the person as being the victim of an alleged sexual offence. They do not prevent the identification of the person in other contexts… Victims can be identified if they agree to it. The consent should be in writing and must not be the result of any pressure.” I have so far failed to find any such guidelines in the website of any Indian news channels.

Switching through other channels, at least NDTV had the sense to blur her face, even though the overall look and hairstyle was fairly evident.

Then comes Headlines Today (Pt4). Initially they did blur her face, but suddenly in the middle of the story they show the bottom half of her face without blurring! Why? Was it necessary? No, but they did it anyway. Just for some variety. Un-fuckin-believable!

Which again brings me to the real question. Why can’t they just darken the whole shot so that absolutely nothing can be seen, and only her voice heard? Are they catering to the voyeur in the audience who may be getting off on seeing a woman who’s been violated? Do we as the intended audience really want to see this? I don’t think so. I think we’re better than that and don’t need any such visuals. What we do want is for the media to deal with rape in a sensitive way. I really couldn’t bear to watch anymore, but I seriously think we need a law for this.

In the meanwhile there are three lessons all potential rape victims can learn from this episode.

1)    Don’t report the rape because the police will tell everyone who you are.

2)    Don’t report the rape unless you want to be called a liar.

3)    Don’t report the rape because the media will plaster your mug on national television for all to see. With a slim black band of course.

 

Image Source [http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/1936908945/sizes/l/in/photostream/]

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