We are writing this letter with regard to the blatant violation of the rape-shield laws, as well as the abuse of children’s rights, in the media coverage of the Badaun gang rape and murder.
Press Council of India, Indian Newspaper Society, Editors’ Guild of India, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), The Hoot, Dainik Bhaskar, Economic Times and others,
Sub: Violating Section 228 A IPC in the coverage of Badaun gang rape
On May 30th, 2014, Dainik Bhaskar published an article about the gang rape and lynching of two minor girls from a low caste community in Badaun, UP. The article was published with a picture of the lynching. This is a criminal offense under Section 228 A of the IPC.
The image has since gone viral on the web. Now the Economic Times and other publications have also published reports with the image. All these newspapers/periodicals are in clear violation of the law. Similarly all those members of the social media who shared these images online are also violating the law.
We know that the Indian public is fully aware that victims of rape are protected under this law and that it is a criminal offense to reveal their identity. We know this as it is only one year since the Delhi gang rape happened when there was a strict enforcement of this law. Subsequently, in the Tehelka sexual harassment case involving a woman journalist, a round of discussions happened in the mainstream media and social media, where this topic was discussed again. Here various women’s groups took the stand that the right to privacy of the victim is totally inviolable.
However, such rights and privacies are reserved only for the ‘sacred body’ of the upper caste woman. When it comes to the bodies of dalit and tribal women no such rules are kept, and pictures of their raped, naked and mutilated bodies are captured and circulated with impunity. We have seen this happen in various cases of sexual violence against dalit and adivasi women.
So it is not at all surprising that Dainik Bhaskar has kept to caste-tradition and published the photographs of the underage girls. It is no wonder that the Economic Times and the urban Indians on social media didn’t think twice before breaking the law and circulating these images further.
What we want to emphasize here is that the demeaning and degrading of dalit, adivasi and lower caste women and their bodies is at the root of the discriminatory culture within which their lives are caught. This is something that happens daily in popular culture, print and visual media and it is this that legitimizes the violence against them.
Sharing the photographs of the raped girls and revealing their identity, in violation of the law, is clearly a part of this caste culture of degradation and violence.
We protest this and request all Newspapers that have violated Section 228A including Dainik Bhaskar and Economic Times to issue an immediate apology and ensure removal of the picture or the whole article itself from their websites.
We cite here the relevant portion of Section 228A in this letter of protest:
1] As per Section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences etc, anyone who reveals or does an act that may reveal the identity of a rape victim is liable for punishment up to two years with or without fine. The exact citing of the section is:
[i]228A. Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences etc.—
(1) 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.
(2) Nothing in sub-section (1) extends to any printing or publication of the name or any matter which may make known the identity of the victim if such printing or publication is—
(a) by or under the order in writing of the officer-in-charge of the police station or the police officer making the investigation into such offence acting in good faith for the purposes of such investigation; or
(b) by, or with the authorisation in writing of, the victim; or
(c) where the victim is dead or minor or of unsound mind, by, or with the authorisation in writing of, the next of kin of the victim:
Provided that no such authorisation shall be given by the next of kin to anybody other than the chairman or the secretary, by whatever name called, of any recognised welfare institution or organisation.
The relevant part from: Juvenile Justice Act 2000
21. Prohibition of publication of name, etc., of juvenile involved in any proceeding under the Act.-
1. No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or visual media of any inquiry regarding a juvenile in conflict with law under this Act shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile nor shall any picture of any such juvenile be published.
The relevant part from: Prevention of Children from sexual offences act (PoCSOA) 2012
Sec 23 of POCSO states “23. (1) No person shall make any report or present comments on any child from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities without having complete and authentic information, which may have the effect of lowering his reputation or infringing upon his privacy.
(2) No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child:
Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Special Court, competent to try the case under the Act, may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the child.
(3) The publisher or owner of the media or studio or photographic facilities shall be jointly and severally liable for the acts and omissions of his employee.
(4) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment of either description for a period which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.
Supporters wishing to add their signatures to this letter are requested to leave their Name, Occupation and Place in the comments section. Thank you.
B.Karthik Navayan, General Secretary, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad
Anu Ramdas, Researcher, USA
Naren Bedide, Writer, Hyderabad
Rahi Gaikwad, Journalist, Ahmedabad
Vinayakala Korvi, Researcher, Delhi University, Delhi
Sruthi Herbert, Research Scholar, Univ of London
Sukanya Shantha, Journalist, Mumbai
Joshua Isaac, Student, Chennai
Anoop Kumar, Teacher, Wardha
Jenny Rowena, Academic, Delhi
Akshay Pathak, Writer, Pondicherry
Praveena, Research Scholar, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad
Jyotsna Siddharth, Research Scholar, Delhi School of Economics
Cynthia Stephen, Independent Researcher, Bangalore
Vinay Bhat, Management Consultant, Fremont (California)
Nilesh Kumar, PhD scholar, TISS
Noel Didla, Instructor, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS, USA
Hany Babu, Academic, Delhi
Pradnya, Student TISS, mumbai
Rashmi Ekka, MBA Student, Jamshedpur
Bhanu Pratap Singh, Tech Consultant, Delhi
Ashwini Shelke, Researcher, USA
Aqui Thami, Activist, Mumbai
Priya Chandran, Researcher, Hyderabad
Asha Kowtal, Activist, New Delhi
Beena J Pallical, Human Rights Activist, New Delhi
Pradnya Jadhav, Activist, Researcher- Aurangabad
Angela Kishore, Student, Miranda House, University of Delhi
Drishadwati Bargi, Student, Jadavpur University
T. Rajan, Journalist, Los Angeles
Anjali Rajoria, Doctor, New Delhi
Bhupali Magare, Human Rights Activist, New Delhi
Gurinder Azad, Activist, Delhi
Ashwini K.P, Researcher, New Delhi
Dr. Chetana Sawai, Secretary, Subhedar Ramji Ambedkar Education Society, Wardha
Aruna Kornana, Researcher, New Delhi
Madhuri Xalxo, Research Associate, NLUO, Cuttack
Gouri Patwardhan, Filmaker, Pune
Raiful Alom Rahman, Student Activist, Delhi University
Soundarya Iyer, PhD Student, NIAS, Bangalore
Archana Bidargaddi, Software professional, Norway
Ratnamala, Academic, Mizoram
Rashmi Birwa, Development Trainee, Save the Children, Jharkhand
Abhay Xaxa, Research Scholar JNU
Rupali Bansode Programme Assistant and Logistics Coordinator, Columbia Global Centers ǀ South Asia, Mumbai
Vibhawari Kamble, Activist, New Delhi
Update: Blurring, replacing and removal of the images is now being done by many of the sources. This doesn’t alter the fact that many national and regional publications have violated the laws stated above, initially, with lasting consequences on the Internet. We hope they pay more attention to the ethical aspects involved and not try to evade them by coming up with partial truths as excuses.