Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Anonymity of victims

There's presently a debate in India on whether the famous gang-rape victim of the attacks in India should remain anonymous. Some parts of Indian society (including the Minister of Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor) would have her named, her life fleshed out a bit, and have the new legal codes under development named after her. On the other side, the current laws and customs provide anonymity to victims and their families, presumably both because to a certain extent conservative cultures (of which India has many) shame families for having members victim to things like this, and partly to shield them from public scrutiny in a difficult time.

It's particularly interesting because humanising and becoming a symbol go both ways as arguments; were the anonymity lifted, the victim could be shown as a real person, but she would also be turned into a symbol with many bits of her life dug through for clues, unpopular opinions held high, or perhaps the gravity to make her the most potent symbol would eliminate most of the depth that was suddenly possible. In the public eye she'd move from a statistic of one to a caricature, and her family forced onto the national stage.

This may be a case where there's a contrast between the good-for-all (presuming it would advance public discourse on the matter) and the good-for-the-family contrast. Or perhaps the public discourse is better with the imagined details and small leaks of information?

None of this is meant as commentary on press freedom, as prominent as that issue would be in a broader analysis of what-to-do-here. Rather, it's a question on what would be best were we to accept that naming victimes *may* be a legitimate limit to press freedom, were we not worried about such provisions being the thin end of the wedge in greater limits to press freedom, and were we simply trying to figure out the interests at stake having already decided to evaluate things in a non-absolutist style.


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