Media muddies facts of ICU rape, new congregation for Mulakkal, pastor arrested

The 8 November edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Our Voix founder Megha Bhatia conducts a workshop on child sexual abuse. In a NewsTracker interview she says media reporting on sexual assault of minors needs improvement. Photo courtesy: Megha Bhatia

The alleged gang-rape of a minor in an Uttar Pradesh hospital has made national and international news, but conflicting media reports have made the facts of the case unclear. Two other unsolved gang-rape cases have also received widespread coverage this week. One occurred in Delhi this October and an investigation is underway, while the other took place in Odisha in 2017 and is back in the news after a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) quit over “having failed to ensure justice”.

Stories revolving around the #MeToo campaign continue to be reported across the mainstream media. However, developments in the Kerala nun case now seem to be largely the province of regional publications.

Editor’s pick

Media reports on sexual assault should take into account the age of the survivor, says Megha Bhatia, the founder of Our Voix, an organisation that conducts awareness-building workshops on child abuse for children, teachers and parents. In an interview with NewsTracker, Bhatia shares her views on the media reportage of child sexual abuse cases and explains why she thinks prevention is more important than punishment.

Across India: news since Monday

A 21-year-old woman in Delhi has said that she was drugged and raped by four men, all of whom she knew, on October 31. The survivor says she thought she was attending a party but what ensued was an ordeal that lasted for many hours. The men told her they had taken a video of her and that they would make it go “viral” if she complained. The accused are absconding and the police are conducting “raids” in an attempt to find them.

Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria has resigned from the Odisha Assembly due to negligible progress in the investigation of the gang-rape (and subsequent suicide) of a 15-year-old girl last year. Sagaria said he feels he has “no moral right to continue as an MLA, having failed to ensure justice”.

The Hindu reported on another unsolved gang-rape that allegedly took place on October 19 in Kerala. The police have said the 15-year-old complainant was abducted and raped in a moving car by four men.

Inconsistent media reports

The police are investigating the alleged gang-rape of a minor in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital in Uttar Pradesh. However, news outlets cannot seem to agree on the details of the case, which has been covered across India and abroad.

Most Indian reports say the survivor is a teenager, but stories in international publications consistently say she is 4 years old. Some reports say the survivor was hospitalised for a snake bite, while others say it was due to food poisoning. It’s not clear exactly how many people were involved in the assault, and the main accused has been variously described as a nurse, a compounder, and a hospital attendant.

Kerala priest case

There may be “a fresh case of destruction of evidence” lodged against Franco Mulakkal, the former Jalandhar bishop who is to face trial for allegedly raping a Kerala nun multiple times, if the police is not given access to his laptop, reported the Hindu.

Since he has been released on bail, Mulakkal has started a new congregation, the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus, which has come under criticism from Jalandhar diocese priests for some of its practices.

Mulakkal continues to be a polarizing figure in India’s Catholic church. NewsMinute reported that a Jalandhar church magazine “claimed that the bishop was arrested due to media pressure and the scenario created by the protesting nuns”. However, several priests do not echo these sentiments, says the article. A group of nuns are also planning to carry out a march on November 14 to protest against the bail granted to Mulakkal.

#MeToo

In the context of India’s #MeToo movement, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the National Commission for Women (NCW) to “take action against organisations that do not have redressal systems for such complaints,” reported NDTV.

#MeToo has impacted a range of sectors and industries in India, with this week seeing the suspension of a commanding officer and platoon sergeant of the Surat home guards after they were accused of sexual harassment by 25 women home guards.

A #MeToo story that is getting plenty of social media traction this week is the ‘Illustrated women’s guide to yogabuse’, reproduced here in the Quint, which depicts through artwork sexual harassment at the Practice Room, a yoga studio in Bengaluru.

Opinion

In Firstpost, Shireem Azam writes that Mallika Joseph’s defense of her husband MJ Akbar “puts onus on women to be ‘believable victims’”. She writes, “The ideal victim has to be strong enough to resist sexual harassment, and weak enough to be devastated by it. If she came out without visible injuries, if she did not carry a haunted look wherever she went, we will not believe her.”

Assault of minors

A 60-year-old pastor from Nagaland has been arrested for the rape of a 10-year-old girl. The crime came to light when a video of the crime was uploaded on to the internet by an accomplice, who has also been arrested.

In Surat, a 19-year-old man has booked for raping a 5-year-old girl and a 460-page chargesheet submitted to the court. The survivor was playing with a 4-year-old boy, when his “uncle took her away”.

The rape and murder of a 6-year-old in Pipariya, Madhya Pradesh, led to an angry mob setting a house on fire. The suspect is in police custody.

Rape culture

The Panjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment (PUCASH) has found a water sports coach guilty of harassing a Ludhiana college student for the second time. The student has reportedly been asked to choose from “three remedial measures” — his dismissal, an apology or a “reconciliation”, However, sources who spoke to the Indian Express say that the student is being “encouraged” to pick the reconciliation option, which is what happened after her first complaint.

‘False pretences’ and consent

A sessions court in Delhi has acquitted a man who was accused of rape by his former lover, who said she had sex with him only because he promised to marry her. Additional Sessions Judge Anu Grover Baliga, however, said that though she sympathized with the complainant the relationship was “consensual”. The judge noted that women get “tempted by liberal… ideas of premarital sex” but their traditional “notions of morality” require them “to have physical relations with only the man they get married to”.

A Delhi court on Saturday also granted bail to a man facing similar charges of “raping a woman on the pretext of marriage” and carrying out “love jihad”. The man and woman had reportedly met online.

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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