Sunday, June 29, 2014
What does social media has to do with Badaun Rape case?
CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
For past month or two a very disturbing image is flashing in the social media: two girls hanging from a large tree with an audience of some village folks. They were allegedly hanged after they were raped. Many of my Facebook and Twitter acquaintances shared the image in their respective profiles with their own opinions of the issue of rape culture in India. The image got widely circulated. Some shared to show genuine concern, some shared because they thought they should follow the trend of sharing ‘viral images’ to establish their presence in the social media. But I can’t really appreciate such circulation of images which may increase insult to the corpses of the poor girls. While I was writing my article titled “"Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and Its Effects " (the online version can be found @ http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/05/05/bjc.azu026.abstract?keytype=ref&ijkey=3XNPIViieFGse4G), I noticed how dangerous it can be to circulate disturbing news channel images of women who are victimised. As I understand “The peculiar legal understandings that allow floating of apparently offensive images in the cyberspace(McGuire 2007; Levmore and Nussbaum 2012) for the need of research, literature or general concern, have allowed the existence of the Human safari videos in the social media, and they continue to attract researchers’ as well as general individuals’ interest from various perspectives including that of sexual fantasy and racial trolling(Jewkes 2011).(see pgs 684-685 in Debarati Halder & K.Jaishankar, Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and Its Effects, British Journal of Criminology, 2014 (54) 673-688, doi:10.1093/bjc/azu026). While this had been the major reason that the Jarawa women may continue to be victimised for some more years in the internet, this understanding may nonetheless be applied to the case of Badaun rape victims as well.
In this case of raped and murdered girls, as far as my understanding goes, the images were released in the news channels and the civil society members started sharing the same. We all know how easy it is to spread the flame in the social media by sharing images. However, such public or even private sharing may not always be good. I do not disagree with the view that the more such incidences are shared, the more civil society members can be involved for a mass revolution against violence against women. The Delhi Rape case in December 2012 and the consequences which resulted in creation of new set of laws for women in India can be best example. But it also needs to be understood that our Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code strictly prohibits distributing images of victims, especially women and child victims. This not only may jeopardise the prosecution, but also may add more insult to the dead. I agree that some images show blurred faces; but the original image(which had been circulated by many in the social media) with clear picture is not only visually disturbing, it actually gives an implied message as how women are still subdued by large scale discrimination. One never knows what sorts of sadistic trolls may enlarge the scope of victimisation of the dead in this case. Those who are still sharing these images may note that the parents of the victim girls can approach the court to stop such post death humiliation of their daughters in the digital media.
Please consider: to stop violence against women first stop sharing disturbing images of the victims which may have made them (the victims) feel ashamed of their womanhood. Use social media to build up a strong resistance against rape culture by sharing your views and making people aware of the issue.............. but not by disgracing the victim or by overriding the law.
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”, 29th June,2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/