Should the Indian Gang-Rape Victim Remain Anonymous?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Saurabh Das / AP

Indian policemen stand guard as the body of a 23-year-old rape victim is taken for cremation in New Delhi on Dec. 30, 2012

As the ashes of the young New Delhi rape victim were scattered in the Ganges this week, a new debate started to take shape about the chilling attack that has sent India into a period of deep introspection. For weeks, protesters and newspapers have used a series of symbolic names to refer to the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who died Dec. 29 from the injuries inflicted on her during a brutal gang rape earlier in the month. One network calls her the Braveheart; another calls her Amanat (Treasure). That’s because Indian law prohibits making public the names of victims of rape. The Indian press, which has reported extensively on the victim’s family, friends and hometown, has taken great care to obscure any details that may identify her.

(MORE: India Gang-Rape Victim’s Friend Recounts Attack)

Now some are questioning why. This week, Minister of Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor wondered aloud on his popular Twitter feed what, exactly, the purpose was of keeping the victim’s name shrouded in secrecy. “Why not name&honour her as a real person w/own identity?” he wrote on Jan. 1. “Unless her parents object, she should be honoured & the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being w/a name, not just a symbol.”

Protecting the anonymity of rape victims in court and the media is a widely practiced way to give them the space to recover and to protect them from further harm. It is part of the Indian penal code and has been supported in amendments to the country’s antirape legislation. In 1983, that law went through several changes after another egregious sexual assault mobilized women’s groups to fight for improvements to the law. In recent weeks, the government has again promised several revisions that would toughen it further, one of several measures the government has taken to improve the safety of women in India since the Dec. 16 attack. “Confidentiality is a human right when it comes to the victim,” says Anne Stenhammer, the regional program director for U.N. Women South Asia. “If the family of the victim wants to reveal the name, that is a different case.”

(PHOTOS: In India, a Rape Sparks Violent Protests and Demands for Justice)

Evidently, at least some of the family does. Support for Tharoor’s idea has come from protesters, activists and more recently the victim’s father. Naming the revised antirape law after his daughter would be “a step in the right direction,” the father said in a recent interview with news network CNN-IBN. “A law named after an individual, for whom the entire country came together, will obviously be much more effective,” he said. “This will also ensure that she will be immortalized forever.”

But not everyone has clambered aboard. The ruling Congress Party, to which Tharoor belongs, was irked that the high-profile Minister floated the idea without consulting the government first. While not prohibited, naming laws after individuals in order to memorialize them and help the public identify with a cause, like Jessica’s Law and Megan’s Law in the U.S., has not been practiced in India. That in itself is not much of a reason not to reconsider. But there is a graver case to be made for not changing India’s culture of confidentiality for rape victims, even with the family’s permission. More than in other societies, “there is a huge stigma to the survivor and victim of rape [in India],” says Vrinda Grover, a human-rights lawyer in New Delhi. “It is the survivor and victim who is blamed for the sexual assault, and her life is made completely hellish … Confidentiality allows her to move on.”

(MORE: Brutal New Delhi Gang Rape Outrages Indians, Spurs Calls for Action)

Grover feels that the anonymity of the victim may have helped people in India wake up to the fact that they too are not safe, making their demands for change louder. The gang-rape victim had just left a movie at a mall with a companion and was lured onto a private bus, where she was attacked for over an hour. The banality of her circumstances has helped bring her case home in a powerful way and has helped sustain the weeks-long protests around the country. “My sense is what drew [the protesters] to this was the anonymity of the victim,” says Grover. “Each one of us could identify with her suffering.” Others say the debate, which has gotten a lot of ink and airtime in recent days, has simply become a sideshow. A spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party called Tharoor’s suggestion a “needless diversion” from the real task at hand — getting changes made to the existing law that will make it a more effective tool in protecting women in a nation where rape is unsettlingly common.

But the fact that it is a debate at all is yet another encouraging indicator — like the unprecedented tide of outrage that has swept the country — that people are rethinking everything at the moment. The victim has become an unexpectedly vital symbol of just how dangerous the institutional and social complacency over treating women as second-class citizens has become in India. With so many young people out on the streets, a sense of real hope is forming that this case could stir lasting change. “There has been an earthquake,” says Stenhammer. “The most important thing is not to lose focus — fast-track the courts, change the law where we have found gaps and focus on what we can do together. There has to be a basic systemic change, a mind-set change. There is a lot to do.”

MORE: India: After New Delhi Gang Rape, Should the Culprits Be Executed?

187 comments
fatyfun
fatyfun

@yashuaib Agreed. She should be immortalized. Her death brought awareness to hostility to women in many part of the world. Very sad.

poet_e_motion
poet_e_motion

@RoleReboot @TIMEWorld No. Her name has already been released and to remain anonymous is to keep dehumanizing her.

EASSS
EASSS

No, The name should be revealed.

sunny2bu
sunny2bu

@TIME @TIMEWorld About time...to eat...So...see U guys later on...:):)

sunny2bu
sunny2bu

@TIME @TIMEWorld NO..NO..We have to know, who they are.at least what they look like.Indian government should do their best on this issue!

EQ8Rhomes
EQ8Rhomes

Jyoti is dead. But the world  now knows she was killed by rapist rubbish in Delhi. RIP, JYOTI!

EQ8Rhomes
EQ8Rhomes

She's dead. Now the world knows Jyoti  as  a human being   killed by rapist rubbish. RIP, Jyoti.

apurvpatel
apurvpatel

Opinion of 7 Billion people does not matter in this case. If the family does not want her name to be published then rest of the world's opinion should go to hell. That is the right of the family and that should be primary concern. Any newspaper or TV channel or other media group violates that right is guilty of raping the dead woman.

heathermstroh
heathermstroh

@TIME @timeworld would you tell the world YOU had been gang raped??? #simpleanswer2dumbquestion

akshatdave
akshatdave

@DeepalTrevedie she is not anonymous any more

2004Baikal
2004Baikal

@TIME NO! She deserves a memorial!

PirateWench
PirateWench

@TIME That's a moot question don't you think? Her father came out yesterday and said he wanted the world to know her name...

RositaBoland
RositaBoland

@TIME @timeworld she was already named a couple of days ago in Sunday People and in Daily Mail today. #jyoti Singh Pandey

AjaAli1
AjaAli1

@TIME @TIMEWorld That is incentive to criminality. They don't deserve such treatment.

helloiamJay
helloiamJay

@TIME @TIMEWorld I believe it does not really matter, what matters is the fact that a woman was raped & justice needs to be served, period.

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME The idea of the victim being blamed is empowering the perpetrator and this opinion needs to change.

R_4rishabh
R_4rishabh

@TIME @TIMEWorld a law should be framed on her name !!

PM6496
PM6496

@TIME @TIMEWorld no i want to kmow who it was but i also want to see the faces of rapists

bobbyramakant
bobbyramakant

@TIME @TIMEWorld this question is a bit hypothetical now - as name is out already... with consent from girl's father

Khangalach
Khangalach

@TIME @TIMEWorld People love a martyr.

ThabiPoopedi
ThabiPoopedi

@TIME @timeworld that's not for us to decide.

SophiaStarMD
SophiaStarMD

@TIME @TIMEWorld Yes. It makes it more meaningful, although it is a matter of whether she ought to be seen a victim or symbol for the cause.

JanCobacha
JanCobacha

@TIME no. Visibility will make give her more supporters.

fowen2
fowen2

The taliban (never capitalized in my book) can now finally be seen as the most obscene cowardice known to man. For anyone to be even the slightest proponent of this sick and pathetic term should understand how weak and undeserving they are of humanity. The international community and vigilantes alike should rid this world of complete and udder cowardice trash as this. May the youth of the world destroy such obscene and pathetic men.

KingsiongLee
KingsiongLee

Agree wholly with shawna76. The shame does not lie with the victim. The shame is on the perpetrators. Let a good law that protects women from such heinous crimes be named Jyoti Law. Let her not have died in vain.

shawna76
shawna76

The anonymous victim is yet another way of shaming, a removal of identity, a man's way of saying they are no one. Look at how the merely covering the head and body of all the women in a country reduces their power, makes them one anonymous, powerless, unthreatening whole.

If we want the culture of rape to end, we need to stand up for ourselves. And do it AS ourselves. Not as the weak, powerless, covered, hidden, nameless, anonymous, merely NOTHING that this stands for.

Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey.

Jyoti is a beautiful name. And this is HER year. We *will* remember.

RohitThinksThat
RohitThinksThat

@indiaeyeopener @TIMEWorld @svaradarajan Already named !!!

time2time
time2time

Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey

PhilCorsello
PhilCorsello

Justice will not be served or lessons learned if the most severe sentence given is on the basis of murder, rather than as punishment for rape and the vicious brutality that accompanied it.  Murder is an egregious crime against persons and humanity and the punishment for it quite clear.  Strange as it may seem, murder is not the main issue here and must not be considered to be the main issue.  It must be made clear to all that the punishment given is not  because the victim died but for the savagery she endured at their hands, prior to her death and it is that that must be addressed by the criminal justice system and  every Indian citizen.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

The victim is dead. It's a bit late to worry about sensibilities at this point. She was a human being, she deserves to be known as a human being, not a victim.

soumakm
soumakm

While it is true that rape victim's name is not made public in India and around the world, in case of death I don't see any point of hiding the name. In fact, name is usually published for rape cum murder victims.

JamesMcAllister
JamesMcAllister

The fact that she was murdered should trump the cause (rape).  This is something that society should know.  To not publish her name is to tacitly cover up (and approve) what happened to her.

SwamiWatch
SwamiWatch

A plan for cleaning up most dirt from Indian society:

1. Bring in army, navy and air force mandatory service for 3 years starting at 18 (no exceptions other than bed ridden illness)
2. Throw out all corrupt political dynasties
3. Set up fast track courts for families following bad traditions at home such as dowry, making daughters in law work for parents in law, bride harassing, refusing education to girls, changing wife’s first name after marriage
4. Set up fast track courts for crimes against women (women judges)
5. Set up fast track courts for crimes by politicians and set up more severe penalties
6. Investigate trusts of temples and mosques, investigate sources of large cash
7. Appoint Lokayukta or independent Ombudsman 

mwa6582751
mwa6582751

@fowen2  I don't have any feelings for the Taliban!  I don't believe they are men that are living in the modern world.  They want to go back to the "way things were!"  They want people to "go back to their 'traditional' values!  That includes killing, etc.  And, they want women to be barefoot, pregnant, and quiet.  I think we have to instigate a war of culture, religion, and societal alteration as they have done to the modern (western) world.  Girls and women who are killed, raped or disfigured by these madmen, should have guns or knives to protect themselves.  They should be given martial arts training in their school curriculum or in their homes until these fools get the point.  These men are threatened by women and it would be a great statement to humanity if all men who were taught to be Taliban were killed at birth!

mwa6582751
mwa6582751

@shawna76  Shawna,  I propose that the law be named Jyoti's Law.  And, that ALL MEN and WOMEN become respecters of the law and that punishment be administered in the same manner as for murder.

mwa6582751
mwa6582751

@BobSheepleherder  Bob, you are correct.  She is dead!  But there are millions of women who are NOT and millions of women who will be raped if these men don't face the death penalty.  She didn't die for nothing.  God, unfortunately, as Christ died so that people would change their ways.  Jyoti is a martyr.  She should be remembered for as long as their is an India.  Her death should carry the death penalty--PERIOD.  She was a victim as were many others who have not come to the forefront.  Maybe now, they will be brave enough to name their rapists.  Yes, human being first, victim last, but victim still the same.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@SwamiWatch 

a)  It's India we are talking about.  So I don't think we can make anything like army etc., mandatory.

b)  Throw out dynasty politics, fast-track courts, and appointment of Lokayukta are all check.

c)  Y do U think only Temples and Mosques should be investigated for their trust funds, I don't get it.  Given Ur suggestion Govt of India is sure to take immediate action on Temples though.  Any place of worship works on the donations from devotees, be it a temple, mosque or a church or any other similar place of worship.  It happens through out the world.

RositaBoland
RositaBoland

@BrianNolan1974 @time @timeworld well, I look forward to explanation from @thesundaypeople who broke story

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@mwa6582751 @BobSheepleherder An unnamed victim is just a statistic. Forever unknown and soon forgotten. A person, a human being, with a name, a history, friends and family will live forever. Being a victim is not the last or the least, but it needs to start with who she is.