By withholding Kathua rape victim's name, we are protecting the rapists: Tavleen Singh

The gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl at Rasana village of Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir that shocked the nation brought to the fore another issue — whether names of victims should be revealed or not. Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code prohibits the disclosure of identity of victims when it comes to certain offences. "Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under Section 376, Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C or Section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine," the IPC says.

 By withholding Kathua rape victims name, we are protecting the rapists: Tavleen Singh

Protests across India have demanded exemplary punishment for the culprits of Kathua rape and murder. Reuters

Columnist and author Tavleen Singh, however, believes that by keeping the name of rape victims a secret, the world may not understand what they truly went through.

"When a rape victim's name and pictures are not allowed to be used, does it not end up protecting the rapists? If we had not seen what those beasts did to little *****'s innocent face, would ordinary people have responded with so much anger?" Singh tweeted on Saturday.

The columnist believed that norms of not naming victims of rape are from the pre-social media era.

"This attempt to conceal the identity of a rape victim, especially a child, is with the intention of protecting her privacy, but it's an idea from a time before social media. It was social media that first showed *****'s pictures, but it is on mainstream media that the court's order takes effect after everyone knows the child's name and everything that happened to her," Singh told Firstpost.

"So you have erased her today, while TV reporters are busy interviewing relations of the rapists who are all saying they have been wrongly arrested. So what are we doing? We are helping the rapists tell their side of the story, when in fact the matter is now subjudice, because they have been charged with the crime. It was those pictures of *****’s beautiful little face, and the one of her after she was killed in which that same face is bruised and bloodied, that woke everyone up to the horror of what had happened to this girl who was no more than a baby. Without these pictures, she would have been like the five-year-old girl in Delhi who we call Gudiya, who was raped and brutalised in exactly the way that Jyoti Singh (2012 New Delhi rape victim) was, but her story has disappeared because she was made anonymous," Singh told Firstpost.

"In the case of Jyoti Singh, her mother pleaded with reporters to stop calling her Nirbhaya, and call her by her real name. So in no way does this anonymity help the victim. To actually help rape survivors, we (must) tell every story in detail, so that ordinary Indians realise the extent of the horror," she said.

Drawing a parallel with rampant dowry deaths that used to grab headlines at one point of time in the country, Tavleen pointed out that the naming of victims in these cases have actually brought awareness to these heinous crimes and helped stem them to a great extent.

"In the 70s, dowry deaths made no more than one para with the victim anonymous and a cursory mention that a woman had died in her kitchen from a gas cylinder exploding. It was when women journalists started to write full stories on these women with pictures and details about their lives that people realised that what was happening was completely wrong," Singh said.

The columnist felt that until the media is allowed full freedom to publish names of victims and rapists, the possibility of the crime coming down was low.

"No amount of laws will prevent rapes. What will help is if the media continues to publish names and pictures of the victims and their rapists," Singh said.

On 12 April, the columnist had tweeted expressing her disappointment over the silence observed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when two detestable crimes against a woman and a child shook the very conscience of the nation.

However, she expressed happiness when Modi broke his silence and said in no uncertain terms that the perpetrators won't be spared.

"It's good that the prime minister has spoken. The immediate consequences of his remarks were the arrests in Unnao and the resignation of two ministers supporting the rapists in Kathua," Singh said.

Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 21:32:07 IST