Publishing names and identities of rape victims is not only reprehensible, it is also illegal
We all know the legal explanation of rape. Our readers and viewers can now write a column or two on rape mentioning the sections of law. I’m writing this piece, not for any legal explanation of an unfortunate incident that has happened, but to urge the minimum respect towards the law, which bars publishing the name of a victim.
It is well-known in the early stages of journalism that the names of victims of rape or sexual harassment cannot be published in the news under any circumstances. It is not unusual for victims of rape or sexual harassment to be named in the media. However, it violates the basic ethics of journalism and section 14 of the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act, 2000.
In some cases, the name of the area of the victim or the name of the institution or the identity of one of the relatives is revealed. Those who do disclose their names have no idea about the law and common sense. We can see that some channels and news portals have been blatantly circulating the identity as well as pictures of the victim and her family. They must know that it is a crime punishable by two years of imprisonment.
This country’s statutory law states that any news, information, name and address, or any other information regarding an offense under this law, where a woman or a child is the victim, cannot be presented by which the identity of the woman or the child becomes undisclosed.
If this provision of law is violated, the person or persons liable for such infringement can be punished with imprisonment for up to two years or with a fine not exceeding Tk1 lakh or both.
It is also important to consider whether the alleged “rapist” or “oppressor” should always be named. In all cases, the complaint cannot be treated as a verdict. There is risk of socially degrading the innocent, even if a name is revealed based on mere allegations.
We have to remember the legal principle of presumption of innocence, which says that every person is innocent until proven guilty. So even if there is some doubt about the truth of the allegations, it is better not to make someone a criminal by doing a media trial on the media.
More than a hundred and fifty years ago, anti-sexual assault laws were passed in the sub-continent. These provisions are placed in the penal code. In 161 years, it did not change much. Not just for rape, but there are also many laws against violence against women in the country. We also enacted the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Act in 2000 but violence against women has not diminished at all. So the main thing is that only written law is never enough -- we want the law to be enforced.
By the virtue of the media, we are now getting to know the details of the victims. The whole story is now in the palm of your hand, with pictures of the victim. As if it is not violating the law. As if the constitution does not matter at all.
Such careless reports are also depriving the victims of their right to minimum privacy, which is mentioned in Article 43(b) of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Such media houses are not following any ethics of journalism, statutory law, or the constitution. It feels like there is fierce competition between media companies to reveal the name and identity of a victim, which is unfortunate.
Nowadays, pictures or videos spread instantly through social media. Media houses are not thinking about the mind of a victim and how they feel. Publishers of such news are not thinking about personal dignity, the victim’s family and relatives. A woman has to suffer all kinds of social punishments without any guilt or crime.
What can be published and what can’t be published could be understood only if there was a little use of common sense. But unfortunately, many people do not have time to exercise that sense.
Saiful Bari is a student of law.