crime

Women's Rights Advocate Resigns After Taking Smiling Selfie with Rape Victim

When a member of the Rajasthan Commission for Women met with the victim of a brutal gang-rape, she took a photo—inciting mass outrage.

Gabby Bess

Gabby Bess

Photo via Twitter

Local news sources reported on Monday that a 30-year-old Indian woman was gang-raped by her husband, Jagannath, and his two brothers after her family could not fulfill her dowry. The men also allegedly tattooed expletives on her forehead and hand. According to India Today, the alleged rape was a culmination of ongoing attacks. Police told the publication that, since her marriage in January 2015, the woman claims her husband and in-laws would physically assault her, demanding a dowry of 51,000 Rupees, or $755.

However, among mainstream publications, the "controversy" surrounding the brutal rape focuses instead on a selfie that an Indian official took with the alleged rape victim on Tuesday, when members of the Rajasthan Commission for Women met with the woman at the police station. Someone took a photo of the selfie being taken—in which a commission member, Somya Gurjar, is seen smiling with the alleged rape victim and the chairperson of the commission, Suman Sharma—and it went viral on the messaging service WhatsApp, according to the Huffington Post.

Read more: What It's Really Like to Live in the Rape Capital of India

Sharma told the publication that she was not aware that selfies were being taken as she was talking to the survivor. According to the BBC, Gurjar, the member of the commission who took the selfie, resigned today, though she defended her actions.

"Gurjar said the victim was 'curious' about the camera and that the selfie was an attempt to 'relax and normalize' her," the BCC reports.

"She said take my photo also. I only took her photo to put her at ease and because she asked for it. I was trying to be humane with her," Gurjar explained.

The publication mentions the wave of outrage following the selfie on social media, but there are some who are also concerned that the selfie incident is overshadowing justice for the victim. "The media seems to have got stuck on the selfie, and there doesn't seem to be much reportage of what, if any, action is being taken against those responsible for the rape itself or the tattooing," Nandita Saikia, a media and technology lawyer who lives in New Delhi, told Broadly.

According to India Today, the police say that a report has been filed and an investigation of the case is underway, but they have not made any arrests. Grimly, marital rape is still legal in India, which could complicate criminalization of the victim's alleged rapists and relief for her.