Are We Prepared to Let Rape Survivors Disclose Their Identity?

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Recently, Indian newspapers and news channels got a rap from the Delhi High Court for disclosing the identity of the Kathua gang rape and murder case victim. The court was not happy that victim’s photograph and personal details had been made public by various media houses.

However, when the Times of India contacted some survivors for an opinion on this matter, they had a different take. Numerous rape survivors think that keeping their identity anonymous is only letting rapists gain strength. One of the survivors told the daily, “Why should we be asked to hide our identities when we haven’t committed any crime? Shouldn’t those who are committing rapes be the ones covering their faces?”

Why is it the victims who should hide their faces and not the perpetrator?

No survivor should have to lead a life of anonymity out of fear and shame. Especially when we willingly let rapists walk around freely, giving them the benefit of the doubt. If a survivor willingly wants to step out of her anonymity and talk about her struggle it is our social responsibility to help her do so. Such women deserve support and acceptance from us as a society, because it takes immense courage to reveal one’s identity as a rape survivor.

The primary reason why our law is inclined towards keeping the identity of survivors and victims of sexual crimes under wraps is because of our social tendency of victim shaming. In our society, the burden of rape falls more on the sufferers than on perpetrators. We seldom question the rapists in our country about their intent. But the survivors are always questioned about their choices of what they were wearing to what they were eating. Thus, it becomes difficult for rape survivors to lead a normal life with their heads held high. The rape ends up becoming an inseparable part of their identity.

Anonymity not only helps many victims to lead a normal life, but also helps them fight their legal battle without any fear or shame.

Many rape survivors find courage in their anonymity to take a legal stand and seek justice. For them, it is a boon which shields them from the prying eyes of society and the media. After all, not every survivor has the psychological strength of battling questions about her character and having her photograph carried across every possible media platform, considering what she has been through.

Also, it is unfair to expect such courage from minor rape survivors, because they are not old enough to make such a big decision.

What if the child comes forward today but regrets her decision tomorrow? We cannot expect a child to understand fully the consequences of her decision. Especially when we as a society are unwilling to change our attitude and take some responsibility in letting rapists walk on our streets without a smidgen of guilt in their eyes.

It will help us give faces to heinous crimes which are nothing more than news reports to many Indians. But first, we need to change our mentality and begin placing the blame and shame where it actually lies. Only then is it right to ask parents of the deceased victim like Kathua or the girl who is fighting for justice in Unnao to let go of their veil.

Pic Credit: http://i.dawn.com/

Also Read : President’s Nod to Death Penalty for Child Rape Below 12 Years

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.