As the outrage over the death of a Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras continues, BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya has become embroiled in controversy. The politician has sparked massive outrage after he decided to share a video of the Hathras victim with his considerable Twitter following. The video was purportedly shot soon after she was attacked.
"Haathras victim’s interaction with a reporter outside AMU where she claimed there was an attempt to strangulate her neck. None of it is to take away from the atrocity of the crime but unfair to colour it and demean the gravity of one heinous crime against another..." he wrote in the caption.
But Malviya is not alone. It is a frequent habit for netizens to share personal details about a rape victim, irrespective of the point they are trying to make. To give another example, many of those sharing posters and tweets condemning the incident -- including well known icons such as Swara Bhasker or Kangana Ranaut -- have used her name in their posts.
Now, both from a legal and a moral standpoint, it is never a good idea to share photos or videos or even any personal details about a rape victim - alleged or otherwise.
For one, Section 228A of the IPC states that the disclosure of the identity of the victim of certain offences can be punished with imprisonment up to two years. They are also liable to be fined. These include offences under Section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D. The punitive action also applies if the published matter pertains to proceedings that are before a court.
Now, it must be remembered that we do not know definitively whether the woman was raped or not. While the UP police has cited medical reports to say that there is "no evidence of rape", it has not officially ruled out the possibility. Thus far, all we know is that "samples did not have sperm".
Secondly, there is also a legal angle to the case at present. The Allahabad High Court has recently taken suo motu cognizance over the pre-dawn cremation of the girl, and advocate Seema Kushwaha is reportedly in Hathras to meet the family of the girl. Reports say that she will fight the case. The same case, we feel compelled to mention, that at present names rape among its offences.
As such, even if the young woman was not raped or sexually assaulted, as many appears to believe, it is still a crime on netizens part to share such visuals.
Coming back to Malviya, the moral aspect too has been questioned by many, even as others took it upon themselves to defend him. As journalist Dhanya Rajendran noted, is a woman supposed to simply "reveal what happened to her to any random person who asks her"?
"And that too, something that has broken her body and soul. Also, did you not think once before tweeting her video without blurring face?" she asked.
Many others have expressed similar sentiments, wondering how the BJP leader had felt it was acceptable to share the girl's trauma with the world in order to prove his point. On the other hand, others still were convinced that he had committed no wrong. Fellow party leader Priti Gandhi took to Twitter countering another user and stating that Malviya had not violated any laws as the rape allegations were "only a fiction of Lutyen media’s imagination".
But, whatever be the circumstances surrounding her death, it must be remembered that the sharing of such personal details merely serves to amplify the pain of the family. As the events leading to the girl's death are dissected with visual aids, we as a whole continue to deny her and her family the dignity that is due to them.