A ‘vindictive’ church, rejection and rape, tutor kills 6-year-old

The 24 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Social activist Swami Agnivesh has written to the Pope about the “punitive” treatment given to the Kerlala nuns who spoke against rape-accused priest Franco Mulakkal. Photo: Frederick Noronha/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Four months after former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested for allegedly raping a nun multiple times (he was let out on bail a month later), a chargesheet against him is yet to be filed. However, the case has regularly been in the news because of the Kerala Catholic church’s campaign against the nuns who are standing in support of the complainant. Swami Agnivesh, a prominent social activist, was prompted by the church’s recent actions to write to the Pope, stating, “[W]hile the concerned diocese and its religious orders go easy on the alleged rapist, it is targeting those who stood and struggled for justice for the victim”. Similar sentiments have been echoed throughout much of the mainstream media in recent weeks as well.

Editor’s pick

Capital punishment for rape features in the news when it is awarded or when a leader speaks about it, but critical media analysis seems to have dwindled, says NewsTracker’s Sukanya Sriraman in ‘The death of a debate’. This kind of reportage, she argues, “feeds into a populist narrative that treats capital punishment as some sort of magic bullet”.

Across India: news since Monday

The Catholic church in Kerala invited criticism last week for issuing transfer orders to four of the five nuns who have been supporting the rape complainant in the Franco Mulakkal case at their convent. This week, the Missionaries of Jesus congregation issued transfer orders to the fifth nun as well. She has been taken to task over her “rebellious attitude” and for “resorting to activities which amount to sheer violation of congregation rules”. Prominent social activist Swami Agnivesh has reacted to the church’s recent actions by writing a letter to the Pope, in which he said the transfer orders were “punitive”, “uncharitable” and and “reeked of vindictiveness”. Asking the Pope to intervene in the matter, he wrote: “[C]ertain functionaries of the church are compounding tolerance towards heinous crimes with intolerance towards commitment to justice”.

Meanwhile, another nun, Lucy Kalappura, who also spoke out against Mulakkal, has been sent a notice, for the second time, by her congregation for her “scandalous acts of violation”. She has said the charges against her are “baseless” and “a kind of threat”.

According to Gita Aravamudan, writing in Firstpost, the “rebellion” of the nuns is a new phenomenon but their “abuse” is not. The church is doing what it can now to restore the status quo. “Left without money and deprived of each other’s support, [the nuns] may have to give up the fight, which is perhaps what their superiors are hoping they will do”, she says.

‘Rejection’ and rape culture

In Pune, the police believe that a 24-year-old man raped and strangled the 7-year-old daughter of a widowed woman who rejected his marriage proposal. The suspect then hanged himself. The child was reportedly assaulted and killed at her house on the premises of the College of Military Engineering while her mother was at work.

In Delhi, two men shot and seriously injured a transgender woman when she refused to have sex with them. One of the two suspects has been arrested.

Assault of minors

In Delhi, an 18-year-old private tutor has been arrested for allegedly raping and killing his six-year-old student. He was reportedly planning to commit the crime for several days.

In Madhya Pradesh, a 16-year-old girl has said that she was raped on the premises of a school by a 21-year-old man who was assisted in the crime by two schoolteachers.

#MeToo

A Delhi court has said that it will decide on January 29 whether M J Akbar’s defamation lawsuit against journalist Priya Ramani will go to trial or not. Ramani is one of several women who have accused Akbar of sexual misconduct during his long career as a journalist.

Artist Subodh Gupta will reportedly “skip” the India Art Fair and Jaipur Literature Festival this year. He was accused by a colleague of sexual harassment last month. Gupta, who denies the allegations, also stepped down as guest curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival in December.

Politics

Last week, a woman MLA in Uttar Pradesh referred to Dalit leader and former chief minister Mayawati as a “blot on womankind” for forging a political alliance with a rival party whose workers had assaulted her in 1995. This kind of casteist and sexist language is deeply problematic says an editorial in the Indian Express and should have no place in political discourse. The piece points out: “This was not a woman speaking with empathy about a victim of male violence [but] sought to turn the Dalit leader into a figure of disgust and dishonour for her cheering audience”.

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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