In this era of governments blatantly exercising fascism, placing their own selfish motives (as ‘interests of the State’) before the interests of the people, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India seems to be the only ray of hope that the aam janata (common people) can cling on to. It is meant to safeguard not only our rights but also our dignity. It is a body entrusted with the duty of protecting and conserving the constitution. A constitution is an institution that the people are supposed to obey and remain loyal to; their loyalty is not to the ‘State’ or the government. The state is for the people, the people aren’t for the state.
The Supreme Court does a fairly good job. Mostly. But when it comes to the protection of women, even the Supreme Court can be a little naïve. On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, passed a judgement barring the media from revealing the identity of survivors of rape. Publishing in print, or airing and broadcasting on TV and social media, not only the names of the survivors but any material that may reveal their identity, even in the slightest, is prohibited. Even the police are prohibited from putting in the public domain FIRs that fall under Section 376 to 376E, and the POCSO act.
Further, they are supposed to keep the documents revealing the survivor’s identity in “sealed folders”. This is to protect the survivor against harassment, violation, or shaming. Good move, isn’t it?
This is the lawful version of the stigma that a survivor needs to stay under a layer of anonymity if they want to steer clear of society’s judgmental gaze. Parda pratha much? It re-iterates the mindset that the survivor is the one who has something to hide, something to be ashamed of, and if they speak out against their assailant, then they will become a target of ridicule. Undeniably, the issue of victim-shaming is huge in this country. But keeping the identity of the survivor a secret is not the solution to it. Instead of urging people to understand that it is not the survivor’s fault, that the survivor is as dignified a human as anybody else, this kind of archaic mentality is propagated time and again.
The right way to go about uprooting the social evil of sexual violence would be to make victim-shaming a punishable offence. The survivor should be able to lodge a complaint against anybody who is harassing them, and that person should face repercussions. Maybe that will make them shut up.
This judgement, in my opinion, propagates the wrong ideas about the protection of survivors of sexual violence. It will not lead the end of victim-shaming. Instead, it leads people to believe that the only way to curb this problem is to keep the survivor away from the public eye. Then what? What will the next step be? Not stepping out of your house? Not interacting with anybody? Halting your life? And what is the contribution towards bringing a change in society’s normative behaviour and the mentality of people? The answer: none.
It is important to make alterations in the law in a way that changes the mindset of people.