In a horrific incident that left the country shaken, a 19-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh died in Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital after being allegedly gang-raped and tortured. The teenager was brutally attacked on September 14 in her village and succumbed to her injuries a fortnight later.
Her demise was followed by social media outrage, with people condemning the brutal act and demanding justice for her. However, amid the cries for justice, there has also been an abundance of fake news surrounding the victim and her identity; from a fake image that was widely circulated on social media to alleged videos of the girl, false reports have been galore.
First and foremost, it is against rules and guidelines to share the name or photo of rape and sexual assault victims. Following the Hathras rape victim’s death, a fake photo that claimed to be her went viral on social media.
This, however, is fake. The viral post, which was shared by numerous celebrities and political leaders, soon reached the brother of the woman in the photo. Ajay Jeetu Yadav, the brother, took to Facebook to clarify that the woman was not the Hathras rape victim. Yadav wrote that the woman in the photo is his sister who died in 2018 in Chandigarh. Yadav had apparently shared the photo on Facebook while seeking justice for his sister, who died after alleged medical negligence.
Another video that had gone viral on social media claimed that the Hathras victim was a topper in school and that had she had won awards and accolades for her success in exams. In the video that went viral, a woman could be seen greeting a crowd of people.
A fact check by The Quint proved that the woman in the video was not the Hathras victim. In fact, the woman in the video is named Nazia Begum and she worked in a Hyderabad based company, Safe Shop. Moreover, the Hathras victim had only been educated till the fifth standard, as reported by Indian Express. Here’s a video which proves that the viral post is fake:
The Supreme Court, in 2018, during the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, had expressed concern over incidents of rape in the country by observing that women are being raped “left, right and centre”, has asked all the print, electronic and social media not to publish or display photos of victims of sexual abuse — even in blurred or morphed form.
The apex court also warned against interviewing minor victims of sexual abuse saying it has a serious mental impact. However, that has not stopped people from sharing the photos of the victims over and over again, without any verification whatsoever about their authenticity.
But this is not the first time. In December 2019, as the whole country went up in arms after the brutal gang-rape and murder in Hyderabad, many Indians desperately Googled for the rape videos online. After the monstrous rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, her name, photos and rape video were also the top searches on Google and pornographic sites.
Why, you may ask. Studies call it carnal pleasure. There is a certain voyeuristic pleasure about watching such videos and photos. This speaks volumes about the gaps in the judiciary system, flawed policies and even faultier implementation, sheer lack of gender sensitization - which is probably why people, even those with a considerable following on social media, wouldn’t think twice (or even check the laws) before sharing rape victims’ photos on social media.