Unnao: tragedy foretold, #MeToo panel resurrected, POCSO in focus
The 30 July edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
The Unnao case, in which powerful BJP legislator Kuldeep Sengar was charged with raping a teenage girl in 2017, is making national headlines and causing a political “ruckus” again after the victim and three others travelling with her met with a “suspicious” accident. The victim, who is battling for her life in hospital, had just days earlier written to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) about “threats” made to her about the case.
“The Indian media’s rural blind spot has led to an under-reporting of rape cases that occur in villages and slums,” says Soni Sangwan, former consulting editor at Gaon Connection, a rural media platform. This is especially unfortunate since the mainstream media can have a “tremendous impact” by covering rural stories, she tells NewsTracker’s Simran Singh in an interview.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
An FIR for murder has been registered against politician Kuldeep Sengar and nine others after the Unnao rape victim’s family accused him of orchestrating an accident that left her and her lawyer critically injured and killed two of her relatives. According to the FIR, some police personnel also pressured the victim to withdraw her case, and the family received death threats from Sengar while he was in prison.The Uttar Pradesh government has asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter, amid public protests and accusations of political patronage from opposition parties.
Several editorials have also drawn attention to Sengar’s political clout and the fact that Sengar is yet to face trial despite the chargesheet against him having been filed last year.
In “Unnao rape survivor’s ordeal shows that BJP has failed on promise on women’s safety”, Shoaib Daniyal in Scroll writes that the accusations of rape and murder against Sengar “hint at a chilling abuse of power”.
In “Kuldeep Sengar, the Unnao rape accused even BJP can’t act against”, Prashant Srivastava in ThePrint unpacks the influence wielded by the leader. (The BJP has since claimed that Sengar was suspended long ago but no press statement had been released.)
In “BJP’s inability to rein in Kuldeep Singh Sengar harms Modi’s promise of rooting out muscle, money in politics”, Sreemoy Talukdar in Firstpost explains why it is “difficult… to assume that Sunday’s accident was an unfortunate coincidence”.
Incidentally, another woman who had accused Uttar Pradesh politician Gayatri Prajapati of rape in 2017, withdrew her case against him last week. Prajapati, a Samajwadi Party leader, was in jail for the crime when she wrote a court application asking for the charges against him to be dropped.
#MeToo and media
Three days after a Quint story revealed that a government sexual harassment panel(constituted in the wake of #MeToo last year) had been dissolved, the formation of a fresh committee was announced by the government. The Quint had filed an RTI (Right to Information) application to ascertain the accomplishments of the committee, but found it no longer existed. The new committee is headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, a decision that has been questioned by leading feminist journalists such as Rana Ayyub and Sandhya Menon.
The Rajya Sabha last week passed the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) amendment bill, which includes the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on minors. Plenty of the news coverage of this development was devoted to Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, who during the Rajya Sabha debate described his own experience with sexual abuse as a teenager.
In Jharkhand, a village council reportedly asked a rape survivor to accept a payment of Rs 1 lakh from the three perpetrators and thus “settle” the matter.
It took a tweet from Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the police in a Kanpur district police station to act on a woman’s sexual harassment complaint. Vadra’s tweet came after a video emerged of a policeman making derogatory comments to the complainant.
In ‘This Muslim woman was hit with 4 FIRs, rape threats for writing poetry in her mother tongue’, HuffPost India’s Piyasree Dasgupta profiles a ‘miya’ (Bangladeshi-origin Muslim) poet of Assam and her experiences with gender- and religion-based injustice.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
See the full list of rape and sexual violence cases reported this week and earlier on our web tool, NewsTracker Data. Use our search function or select one of our boards (such as #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, or #PoliticsofRape) to read reports on specific cases and/or themes.
You can follow us on @maarnews for NewsTracker Originals and more. Or use the sign-up link here to get Note This directly in your inbox!