“I say this in front of you all that her name was Jyoti Singh.”
Last December, Asha Singh named her daughter as the Delhi rape victim who had since been known as “Nirbhaya” or “One Without Fear.” Speaking on the third anniversary of the brutal attack, she condemned the release of her daughter’s youngest assailant, who was 17 when he committed the crime. Serving just three years in a correctional facility, the maximum sentence for a juvenile, his discharge sparked protests across New Delhi.
Although Singh’s death prompted legal reform, including fast-track courts for sexual violence cases, many considered the release of her assailant a failure of the Indian justice system. On this day, Singh chose to name her daughter and defy the Indian law, which prohibits the identification of rape victims.
“There is no need for us to feel any shame,“ Singh said. “It is the perpetrators of heinous crimes who must feel ashamed of themselves.”
These words pinpoint a phenomenon unique to the crime of sexual violence: Survivors, rather than perpetrators, are blamed and shamed for offenses committed against them. Fearing judgment and prejudice, many survivors choose not to seek medical services or justice through the legal system. Only 2 percent of Indian women who experience gender-based violence report it, according to Demographic and Health Surveydata, and many even hesitate to confide in friends and family.
Selfie Journalism Offers a Solution
Yusuf Omar, a mobile editor at the Hindustan Times, recently challenged the belief that survivors must suffer in silence and provided a creative workaround for India’s law. Using Snapchat filters to mask their faces, Omar asked women to recount their traumas. Simultaneously filming and storytelling, Omar’s subjects felt free to speak openly and without fear.