Friday, July 31, 2009

Names Changed...

Here's something that I have been pondering over since some time.

You must be aware that newspapers should withhold the name (and any other information that can reveal the identity) of molest or rape victims. In one particular instance, I felt sad that the same standards were not applied even when the story seemed as scandalous, or at least with similar possible outcomes — something that would bring shame to the victim and the family. Why? Because the concerned person was a man...

A senior citizen was operated upon after he shoved a glass tea cup up his ass. The news was published with the name and photo of the withered old man with salt-pepper beard on the hospital bed, visibly in pain. Even if we say the act was pervert, the act of publishing the news with such relish (and visual aids) also perhaps bordered on pervert lines. In my view, his name also should have been concealed because the publicity was sure to bring him and his family the same kind of scandal that a rape / molest victim needs to be sheltered from. Also, the old man was a victim himself, his act had caused no one but him a lot of pain and shame.

Besides, what was achieved by publishing the name? Is information for the sake of it justified? What was achieved by publishing his photo? All his shrivelled face must have served for would be as an excuse to crack lewd jokes.

Now, consider the issue with a hypothetical twist. Imagine a 60-plus woman had shoved a glass up her ass. I am sure, some hypocritical sense of dignity would have prevented her name from being revealed. I use the word hypocritical because the same standards were not applied to the old man, just because he was a man. An interesting instance of gender bias, isn't it? Who knows, if the incident was published even minus the woman's name, moral purists may have lambasted the newspaper with expressions like Scandalous, Against Indian Culture, Against Indian pride and all such crap, refusing to believe that Indian women could ever indulge in bizzare acts of sexual gratification...

This incident, which happened quite some time ago, came back to my mind after another news came up recently. A middle-aged married man, with two kids, was tonsured and his face smeared with vehicle oil for reportedly harassing a married woman with obscene calls and messages over the past three months. And yes, his name was not changed in the report. Anyone who has faced such calls, or been molested on crowded buses may have vehemently wished for such, or worse public humiliation for the accused. But, actually seeing the photograph on page — a scared, shamed man, his face turned grey with humiliation — didn't exactly elicit a reaction of feminist jubilation.

While we safeguard the honour and dignity of women who have been wronged, perhaps we can be a little more sensitive to those whom we think have wronged. At least in the first case. In the second case, I am not really sure. What do you think?


manju said...

I agree that there are double standards. Mostly because it is seen as being Politically Correct.

At the beginning of the Pink Chaddi Campaign the PCC ladies had put up on their website, a doctored photograph of three RSS workers- two elderly men and one boy of 6/7- all shown wearing pink chaddis.

Later they took the photo down and put up an explanation on their website that it was a stock photo and the three were not connected with the Pub case.

But before that, this photo was flashed on many news channels and even in some newspapers.

Just imagine what would have happened if a photograph of two elderly ladies and a girl had been used!

feddabonn said...

very valid point, gauri, and not one i had ever thought of. makes a lot of sense!

Anonymous said...

Fully agree - this is often seen in offline as well as online media. That's why gender equality is so difficult a concept...

CoFfEe AnGeL said...

Well we should be fair, to both...which means no preference for females either.protect both or expose both.
women arent weak...or oversensitve.
i think gender equality begins by women. often its women who demand extra attention :o)

Anonymous said...

I do think the name in the case you mentioned should have been withheld. It is sad that he should be humiliated for harming no one but himself. And at what age... extremely sad and unethical.

In cases where a rapist has been convicted, anonymity is not needed, but I suppose the cases you mentioned deserve some consideration.... but not people like Sunil More!

We do see a serious neglect in most such cases, not just men, even where women are involved, like the New Year Molestation case in Bombay, they did not spare them at all. See what they did to Aarushi's murder?

Our media is generally insensitive, men or women. Anything for sensationalising :(

John said...

Just an observation - not very relevant. What the old man did was obviously painful but hardly newsworthy.

I think a similar treatment should be meted out to editors who like to publish stories like this.

Solilo said...

Media is insensitive. Plain and simple. How do you explain someone going to a shocked person and asking how does it feel to be in the bomb blast and losing a leg? :(

Gauri Gharpure said...

Manju-- an extremely interesting point!!

Imagining women wearing pink chaddies in that context doesn't seem to serve the purpose.. not that using real photos is justified in anyway, but i feel it's some chauvinistic men they wanted to target and used wicked humour..
but then, we see women in shocking pink (and golden, silver, etc) bikinis all the time, used as prop in almost any song or film and we accept it. next thing, we debate live-ins, gay rights, valentine cards and fashion shows.. now tht's the double standard of our society. dignity is a concept that is manipulated left right and centre.

yes, the idea of being politically correct and double standards are often quite closely linked..

Feddabon-- i started thinking on these lines after this and a few other instances..

Mahendra-- curious--wht are the online instances?

Coffee-- i am not sure about the extra attention bit, but yes, sometimes gender is turned in one big hype, tilting hugely to the female side.

IHM-- most definitely not in rape cases.. now tht u have talked about it, do you know, it's becoming frighteningly common for rapists to propose marriage, or marry their victims and walk away on a bail.. i read at least 2-3 such cases recently.. and in some, the judges themselves suggested this. shocking!!

John-- in strict, moral sense, yes, it was not. but the sad truth is that such items sell. tht's the pinch you feel, all the time. and i would be in a lot of pain if your suggestion is implemented. :)

Solilo-- plain and simple and extremely challenging. for out of the same media, you occasionally get stories written and edited with a lot of effort and emotion. that's when you grab a chance to make up for all the commercial calcutions you allow to creep in your newspaper. believe me, most do grab every such opportunity. i had saved some such articles and i will try and put those up soon.