In this post I wish to cover two recent stories brought forward by the media: (1) the Ruchika molestation and suicide case, (2) the N.D. Tiwari expose.
Ruchika was a teenager when she was allegedly molested by a police officer who’s also (or has been) the DGP of the state. Among other forms of harassment, she was also thrown out of her school on some flimsy pretext. Her relatives and friends were repeatedly harassed. All these factors culminated in the girl’s suicide. Media coverage of the issue has horrendously side-stepped the issue of how an entire structure of individuals colluded to make life impossible for the girl, and hell for her parents. Journalists have covered friends who ‘carry on the cause’ of Ruchira’s death, who have ‘fought on for years’ in the hope of justice, and who stand vindicated now by a finding in their favour.
Some simple questions: (1) Since the recent media coverage has been fuelled by the CBI’s charges filed in the Ambala sessions court, what were journalists doing in the 16 years the CBI took to frame charges? (2) What investigative journalism is required to interview the parents, friends and relatives of a victim, and where is the other side of the story? (3) Why is no one asking the really tough questions about how a police officer could not just get away with molesting a teenaged girl, but also harassment (which includes the alleged arrest of the victim’s brother, and interrogations which the officer personally supervised)?
In the second recent story, let us recount what happened: The Governor of a state was caught on camera indulging in sexual activities with three women. Nobody has alleged, neither has it been proved that the women were prostitutes, or were being forced in any way. Therefore, if we forget the high public office person occupied (he has since resigned), what we have is a situation where a group of persons were willingly indulging in sexual activities. It may or may not be ethical, but it is definitely not illegal. If someone makes a video of such a scene without the participant’s consent, and publishes it, the logical recourse would be to sue the journalist for breach of privacy.
Again, let me assert: ethical or not, the acts caught on tape were certainly not illegal (unless there are allegations of forcing consent, or prostitution). If a woman were caught in a compromising position on tape, and the tape was circulated without her consent, what would the normal recourse be? Common sense and precedent indicates there would be charges of violation of privacy, indecent representation of women, and also spreading obscene images in the public sphere. Why then is the governor being censured for his sexual preferences? Even if it were assumed that Mr. Tiwari has brought disrepute to a high public office, has the journalist conducting the sting operation not violated usually respected norms of privacy? Will it be possible tomorrow for a journalist to make a video of you cohabiting with a person other than your legitimate spouse, give it to your boss in office and demand your ouster from the organisation you work in? Is threatening to do so anything short of blackmail?
Moreover, this issue has also unfairly tried to link one’s private life with conduct in public life. Yes, a person who mistreats his wife in private ought to be brought to justice. But if a person has unconventional sexual preferences, should that be seen as an indicator of his ability to act decently in public life?