‘A blot on womankind’, nuns fear for safety, Akbar appears in BJP booklet

The 21 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

A pastoral letter sent out by the Syro-Malabar church in Kerala was publicly burnt by reformist Christian organisations who said it aimed to silence nuns and priests. Image is representative. Photo: Pezibear/Pixabay

The Kerala nun who accused former bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape, along with four of her convent supporters, has written to the chief minister about the “inhumane acts” of the accused and his “team”. The nuns have said they fear for their lives in their letter, which has been covered news reports across the country.

The news media has also reported extensively on the remarks of Sadhana Singh, a BJP MLA who referred to former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati as a “blot on womankind” because of her response to an incident where she was “almost molested” a few years ago by political rivals.

In #MeToo news, outrage is building up among journalists over the appearance of M J Akbar on the cover of an official BJP booklet.

Editor’s pick

Pressure exerted by the media forced the Kerala police to arrest rape-accused priest Franco Mulakkal, says Korah Abraham, a journalist with The News Minute. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Tasmin Kurien he explains why he thinks that, in some cases, taking an informed stand is more important than trying to stay neutral.

Across India: news since Thursday

The complainant in the Kerala nun case and four of her supporters in her Kuravilangad convent have written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to protest against transfer orders from the church. The complainant has said that her “life will be in danger” if she is isolated and that the nuns will not be able to appear as witnesses in court if they are relocated, reported the News Minute. The New Indian Express also pointed out that the attempt to transfer the nuns “sabotages the SC (Supreme Court) directive on witness protection”.

According to the Scroll, this is the latest among multiple attempts to “browbeat the victim”. The article also notes the “troubling… power that the church seems to wield over the Kerala administration. Three months after Mulakkal was arrested, the Kerala police are yet to even file a chargesheet”.

The Syro-Malabar church, meanwhile, issued a circular that “threatened punishment to dissenters”, reported the Hindu. A group of reformist Christian organisations burnt the letter in front of the bishop’s house in Kochi to protest against the perceived attempt to silence nuns and priests.

Rape culture

In 1995, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati was assaulted and subjected to “sexual slurs” by workers from the rival Samajwadi Party. However, the parties recently formed an alliance to fight against the BJP. Referencing this alliance, BJP MLA Sadhana Singh on Saturday said that Mayawati was “worse than a eunuch” and “a blot on womankind”. At a rally, she stated, “[W]hen Draupadi was molested, she took a vow to seek revenge… but this woman, she lost everything, but still sold her dignity for the sake of power”. An FIR has now been filed against Singh and the National Women’s Commission has issued her a notice for her “extremely offensive” remarks.

In Rajasthan, a 16-year-old girl killed herself after she was molested for a second time by her neighbour. He was “let off by cops” for his first attempt and the girl was asked to reach a “compromise” with him on stamp paper, reported the Hindustan Times. In her suicide note, which she wrote on the back of the stamp paper, the victim said, “I am not a bad girl”.

Relationships and rape cases

In Gurgaon, Haryana, a bouncer shot dead his former live-in partner when she refused to drop the rape case she had filed against him in 2017. The woman, who reportedly had a baby with the man, filed the case when she found out he was already married. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had held that consensual sex between live-in partners does not amount to rape if the man “fails to marry” the woman due to uncontrollable cicumstances, but that a “false promise” does fall “within the ambit of cheating or deception”.

Table tennis champion Soumyajit Ghosh, who married a girlfriend who had accused him of rape, is in trouble again. His wife and former rape accuser has alleged that he subjected her of “physical and torture”, reported the Times of India. Ghosh has said that he is the real victim of “blackmail and torture”, but “who will listen to me?”

#MeToo

Several journalists have questioned the appearance of M J Akbar on the cover of an official BJP booklet for a government event. The former newspaper editor, who stepped down as Union Minister in the wake of several sexual misconduct allegations, has been described as a “minister of state” in the booklet.

The sexual assault allegations against powerful Bollywood filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani by a former colleague have not invited many statements of support for the complainant. According to actress Richa Chadda, people are “tentative” because they do not know “the facts” of the case. She added, “If exploitation has happened, you should definitely go to the police and take legal route. A lot of people suffer in trial by media”. Actress Dia Mirza, speaking at a panel discussing #MeToo spoke against the “culture of silence” around sexual harassment but also said she couldn’t comment on the Hirani matter because she did not know “the details”. Speaking on the same panel, actress Swara Bhaskar said that she had been sexually harassed by a director but it took her “six to eight years” to realise it.

A woman who had filed a sexual harassment complaint against music mogul Bhushan Kumar has retracted her statement hours after approaching the police, reported the Deccan Herald. In a letter to the police, she described her allegations as “malicious” and said she will never make a “false statement” about him again.

A former BJP general secretary from Uttarakhand now faces rape charges in addition to those of sexual harassment. The charges were added after the complainant, a BJP worker, recorded her statement before a magistrate.

Assault of minors

In Dehradun, the principal of a private school has been arrested for allegedly raping a five-year-old girl.

Two men have been arrested in Hyderabad for the alleged sexual assault of an 11-year-old-boy when he had gone out at night to play.

The CBI has registered FIRs against four shelter homes in Bihar for the alleged abuse of minors. So far, the investigating agency has lodged FIRs against nine shelter homes in the state.

In Jharkhand, a man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for abducting a 13-year-old girl and raping her for a week.

Read more

This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.

See a fuller list of rape and sexual violence cases reported today, and earlier this week.

Use our case filter to read reports on specific cases: #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, #RapeOfMinors, #Muzaffarapur, #PoliticsOfRape (use the dropdown menu in column A).

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