Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Viral contents, safety and privacy of women

After two days of International day for elimination of violence against women  (November,25)and a day after India celebrated Law Day on November 26, I write this blog with a mixed mind of happiness and confused state. The past weeks were noteworthy: a woman bank employee was attacked inside the ATM in Bangalore by a man who is still playing hide and seek when I write this blog and  the sensational Tehelka  journalist’s  sexual harassment case. Both to me are interconnected; all of them relate to the violence against women in different forms. All three incidences became sensational national news within no time due to viral sharing in the social media. The woman bank employee was attacked by man who was hiding inside the ATM counter with a weapon when she was operating the ATM machine. She fell down in a pool of blood. The attacker left the scene by pulling the shutter down. This was viewed by  millions of viewers again and again who watched the CCTV footage that was first aired by the news channels and then shared by almost every third social media user.  I can’t stop appreciating the two school boys who alerted the police men first. They are the internet generation kids, but  they  probably were more concerned about the crime and the victim whose blood was trickling down from the closed ATM kiosk, than wasting time in recording the scene in cell phones (remember the cartoon that is  doing rounds in  the net where people are taking picture/video -graphing  two hands slowly drowning in a water body?)  . Thanks to the school policies in many cities in India which prohibits children from bringing any digital communication devices to the school including the cell phone.  We are getting wonderful citizens for the future indeed. However, no sooner, there were floods of debates in the Facebook as well as in the news channel web links as to whether the CCTV footage should have been aired at all as this is brutal, violent attack and above all it may alert other such ATM attackers as to how to protect their identity when carrying on such operations. On the other hands many shared and showcased the video to spread the news and alert the police wherever and whenever the attacker can be seen.  Ironically i was also asked by some of my friends to see it and share it. I did neither.
        Following closely this, came the Tehelka journalist’s case. A woman journalist of the Tehelka news group complained to her seniors that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by the editor in chief of Tehelka .The news became extremely scandalous, yet sensational due to the reason that only this year India has finally got a bunch of strict laws against sexual harassment of women, including the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Tehelka had been a news channel which carried many notable sting operations to reveal many closely kept scandalous secrets. Before the victim or her complaint could become a ‘hot item’ for the web, the police considered the legal safeguards for the victim which is freshly embedded in S. 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and warned the general public to not to circulate the details of the victim in any social media. ( A very much needed warning indeed. When the Delhi gang rape happened almost a year back, the fury of people led the government to consider stricter punishment for rape. Internet was flooded with pictures of a woman in nebulizer who was described as the victim. no one, not even the police could stop such circulation of false, half known details of the victim especially when the penal laws prohibit releasing the information of the victim of sexual assault cases.
        I consider all women victims with equal concern when it comes to the issue of their privacy. While police has taken a brilliant historical step in prohibiting general public from posting any details of the victim, I feel this wise decision should be used for all cases of victimisation of women. The limitation off course exists as the law which closes the chances of floating the information is limited in its scope. But this was one of the main reasons that I preferred to share the ATM attack video as well. Why should a brutal attack on a woman video be shared by general public at all?  I feel it is extreme disgracing for the victim, even though this could have been considered as the right way to alert the general public about the image of the attacker by some. I ask, why not only the image of the attacker? Because the woman in the ATM attack case was not sexually harassed, no one considered sharing of the video as something which should not have been done. A sheer example of when law of the land stops its words, law of human psychology takes place.  Consider when the ATM attack victim would get to see the circulation, she or her daughter/s or her granddaughters may not feel happy about it. Would you reader feel happy to see the viral pictures of your mother/sister/daughter being attacked and lying in a pool of blood?  You may not !
        If you are the one who has posted the ATM attack video or thinking of sharing any information about the Tehelka journalist. Please do consider. Viral contents can show that you are concerned about the issue, but equally it may endanger the victim’s life, her privacy and safety.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Viral contents, safety and privacy of women””, 27thDecember,2013, published in