A survivor on how media can help, Akbar dropped from Guild, ‘untouchable’ victims

The 13 December edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

‘Anitha’ spoke to NewsTracker about her ordeal in a Chennai hospital and how the media dealt with her story. Image is representative. Photo: Mike LaCon/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

How capable are we as journalists when it comes to interviewing survivors of sexual assault? How can we do better? NewsTracker’s Tasmin Kurien and Spurthi Venkatesh took these questions to ‘Anitha’, the woman at the centre of the Chennai hospital molestation case. In an in-depth interview, she explained why she approached the media with her story and how her experience with journalists was a mixed bag.

I Think, where we capture public opinion on the news reporting of sexual violence in India, Father Chackochan Kalapura of Kerala shared his views on the case of rape-accused former bishop Franco Mulakkal, saying that the “media passed judgment on him before the courts could”. From Bangalore, content marketing specialist Nisha Narayanan pointed out how the media and law enforcement need each other, while Chennai lawyer K Chandrasekaran said that the media should scrutinise how the police and courts handle sexual assault cases.

Editor’s pick

When star athlete Pinki Pramanik was accused of sexual assault — and of being a man — by her girlfriend in 2012, the story made headlines. However, aspects of the coverage were deeply problematic and revealed media biases about who can be a victim and who can be an offender, says NewsTracker’s Simran Singh in ‘When gender blinded the media to (an alleged) rape’.

Across India: news since Monday

Sexual assault survivors in India are treated as if they are “untouchable”, and so the media must refrain from disclosing their identity “even in a remote manner”, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. Naming a victim, even if she has died and her next of kin have given consent, is punishable by law reminded the court. The only exception is if an adult survivor makes a “voluntary” and “conscious” decision to disclose her identity. The court also urged the media to stop “sensationalising such cases” and directed that FIRs in rape cases should “not be made public and especially not to the media”.

‘Ostracised…’

In the ruling described above, the Supreme Court noted, “The victim of a sexual offence… is treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime… [She] is treated like a “pariah” and ostracised from society”. This observation applies to several cases that have been reported in the media this week.

According to DNA, a 15-year-old gang-rape survivor in Jharkhandand her 2-year-old daughter, a product of the sexual assault, have been “boycotted” by villagers. The survivor is not allowed to attend school, locals refuse to buy anything from her relative’s shop, and villagers even wash the communal hand-pump after she uses it. Local sources are quoted as saying that the five “juveniles” who raped her are free and “threaten to kill her”. The police are now probing the matter “following media outcry”, reported DNA.

“If I had shut up, I’d be making news for [my] new projects,” actress Sruthi Hariharan has said, describing how work has dried up after her #MeToo complaint against actor Arjun Sarja. The News Minute pointed out, “Arjun Sarja continues to sign new films and be part of big projects while Sruthi is paying the price for taking on a powerful man at her workplace”. Her story echoes that of several other women who spoke up with their #MeToo stories, including singer Chinmayi Sripada and multiple members of the Malayalam film industry.

A Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student whose sexual harassment complaint against her PhD supervisor has been deemed as “frivolous” by the Internal Complaints Committee may face a series of punitive measures, reported the Indian Express. It has been recommended that she be “completely debarred” from entering the campus and “not be allowed to take up any course or employment in JNU”. Her degree may also be withdrawn. The complainant told the Express that the ICC was “hostile” to her from the outset and she feels “like I‘m the criminal”.

#MeToo impact

The Editors Guild of India has suspended former Asian Age editor M J Akbar and former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal over the allegations of sexual misconduct against them. Gautam Adhikari, former editor of DNA, who has also been named in the #MeToo movement, has been asked to respond to the charges against him, reported Scroll.

Filmmaker Sajid Khan has been suspended for a year from the Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) after three women complained that he had sexually harassed them, reported the Hindu. In a statement, IFTDA said Khan “ did not give any explanation, response or defence to the allegations”. Khan had previously stepped down as the director of the film Housefull 4.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) formed as a response to #MeToo and tasked with strengthening the legal and institutional frameworks to prevent workplace sexual harassment had its first meeting this week. The proceedings were kept “confidential”, reported the Times of India, but quoted sources as saying that strengthening the National Commission for Women (NCW) came under discussion.

Crime and punishment

Madhya Pradesh has awarded its 15th death sentence this year in a case involving the rape of a minor, said the Indian Express. The judge said that the 22-year-old farm labourer “acted like a beast” when he abducted, raped and murdered a seven-year-old girl this June.

The Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of man convicted for the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl to life in prison. The Supreme Court weighed in on the lack of evidence on the deterrent value of capital punishment, and observed that “the trial court and Bombay high court had not taken into consideration the probability of reformation, rehabilitation and social re-integration of the convict into society”.

Shelter homes

Following the sealing of an Odisha shelter home over sexual abuse allegations earlier this month (see here), the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights will conduct inspections at 56 children’s homes in the state.

The CBI has prepared a chargesheet in in the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, but has told the Supreme Court it is yet to decide whether to prepare an individual report for each victim or to file a consolidated one. In another development in the case, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition claiming that main accused Brajesh Thakur was tortured in prison, stating that a medical panel found no signs of injury on him.

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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