Umar Kot Rape: Should Rape Survivor’s Identity Be Revealed?

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Photo Courtesy: Reuters

Imagine this: A six year old girl is tortured, raped and thrown on the street. She spends a week at the hospital without proper healthcare, until human rights activists create a ruckus and the authorities finally take notice, her culprits are yet to be convicted, she is more likely to become yet another statistic in the HRCP’s Human Rights report. This is not the first incident of its kind.

It has been over a month since a six year old was raped,tortured and left on the street. A month of trauma, grief and threats. V, a student of class one, belongs to the Meghwar community — a historically disadvantaged caste of Hindus– which has made her plights even more difficult. Rape is not about lust. It is not about men’s uncontrollable desire and women as his provocateurs. Rape is about power, it is about causing deliberate harm to derive pleasure, it is a weapon to inflict physical and emotional scars. It is used as an orchestrated weapon, a way of social control. So its important for us to recognize that when rape is perpetrated against  a person from a marginalized community the struggle becomes harder, when the marginalized are pushed further into oblivion there is a larger responsibility on the society to ensure that justice is done.

Soon after the case was reported several human rights activists and reporters took to social media to create noise about the incident, a considerable number of people started posting V’s photos online, angry reactions followed, we are familiar with media reports giving details of rape survivors but should activists resort to the same?

In India, a law prevents news outlets from releasing the names of rape survivors in order to protect the families and the survivor. But media attention and societal pressure is only a minuscule of the ordeal faced by rape survivors and their families, not only are the cases underreported, a low conviction rate further deters reporting, try entering a police station to report an incident of rape and the queries are enough to stop pursuance of the case any further. While, civil rights activists have continued to do a commendable job by accompanying rape survivors and survivors of violence to police stations as well as courts, procedures involved in reporting of the cases as well as the court proceedings reflect a  crassly insensitive approach to gender based violence.

Photo Courtesy: Reuters

In V’s case for instance, journalists have been routinely threatened for reporting the case and for building pressure on the authorities to take action. A journalist working in Sindh, Veengas, shared her experience in reporting incidences of rape, according to Veengas most of the time the method to get police to file a FIR is through newspaper reports: Family reports it to the media, media covers the issue, family members take the news clipping to the police station and the case is reported, in one such instance police refused to file the case because the news clippings did not mention any names. She then explained that instances like these are the reason why regional reporters have now resorted to naming the survivor.

I was baffled when I heard this and continue to be confused on how best to respond to these procedural flaws. While I firmly believe in the right to privacy and consider  most media’s coverage of rape as insensitive and unethical, how do we deal with procedural flaws that force some reporters to overlook privacy concerns in order to help the case? V’s name and other details have widely been reported in the media, her picture is also being circulated, those reporting the case claim it is important that her name be told to pressure authorities to respond. If police reporting is the issue, is revealing the name not enough? should a child’s right be further compromised by sharing her picture?

I am looking for answers to weigh in my stance on this, thoughts?

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Sana Saleem is an activist and freelance journalist. Saleem was listed amongst Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2012 and BBC listed her amongst the Top 100 Women to Watch in 2014. She is the co-founder of Stories Beyond Borders