Dear media, report a crime, don’t destroy a 23-yr-old’s life

Moral dilemma of our time: we have names, photos, full history of the actress caught in sex trade. The businessmen ‘clients’ remain anonymous

GN Bureau | September 4, 2014



“Makdee, Iqbal actor arrested for prostitution; says she was short on money,” reported the Hindustan Times this morning. “OMG: Makdee actress caught in a prostitution racket”, read the Times of India link that led to a slideshow on the website’s entertainment section.

I cringed – more because of what I thought was useless salaciousness and treatment of what for me was a straight crime report than by the ‘story’ per se.

The news appeared in the entertainment sections on the online avatar of at least two more newspapers I checked: the Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle.

Strangely – or perhaps not that strangely – all the news pieces failed to report the names of the businessmen involved even as the actor was faithfully referred to as a victim. Shouldn’t we be naming and shaming the perpetrators in this case? Oh, but they do not make for entertainment.

[Also read: Shweta Prasad, the abruptly famous starlet!]

The hapless actor, who reportedly told in a statement to the police, that she was out of money and hence turned to flesh trade to support her family, does. And, ergo, the name, picture, full filmography, and the faux-sensitive, oh-so-tragic, dream-crushed lines in some of the copies online.

Some of the reports, as many have pointed out on social media, could destroy her more than an actual arrest could – she has not been arrested yet, report, as of Thursday afternoon, said she has been kept in a rescue home in Hyderabad – and leave her mentally shattered and psychologically scarred further.

The problem here is the sensitivity – or the lack of it, more often than not – in handling cases, especially crime cases, involving celebrities. No one is asking for kid-glove treatment. But there is little justification in adding additional masala either. So, first things first, this is not an entertainment news. This is crime news. As a corollary, news of such arrests/racket-busting, even those involving celebrities, should be treated like any other crime news.

Second, prostitution per se is not a crime under Indian law, soliciting; among others, is. So, from even that angle, it’s the clients of the woman, reportedly arrested along with her, who are equally, if not more, liable to be punished.

The law is slightly ambiguous on prostitution as a crime. “A sex worker is not legally prevented from practicing her profession inside a house, but is not allowed to solicit clients on the streets. What this essentially means is that a woman is free to use her body for material gains.  But a brothel - a house or room - shared by two or more sex workers is not legally permissible,” says Gangothri.org, a website that “focuses on decentralisation, governance and laws in India”.

This legal ambivalence adds to the problem – as we often see in both reporting crimes related to flesh trade and trafficking and the general moral judgment of people who presume the sex worker to be criminal number one followed by the others, with the client remaining at the end of that queue.

Therefore, the attitude to such news developments: the actress, after all, is down and out but can still get us eyeballs; the “Mumbai businessman”, on the other hand, is likely to take umbrage, so stay off.

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