Akbar accuser ‘accused’, POCSO case on Cong man, serial child rapist caught

The 31 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Journalist Priya Ramani has been summoned by a Delhi court as an accused in M J Akbar’s defamation case against her. Image is representative. Photo: Alpha Stock Images (CC by SA 3.0)

The most widely covered story this week has been the summoning of journalist Priya Ramani as an “accused” in the defamation case filed against her by former Asian Age editor M J Akbar. Another case that has drawn nation-wide media attention is the booking of a Kerala Congress leader under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act for allegedly sexually assaulting an underage domestic worker.

Editor’s pick

In ‘How news reports normalise sexual violence in rural India’, NewsTracker’s Shreya Gautam points out trends in the reporting of sexual assault in local Hindi dailies after parsing the Jharkhand edition of the Hindustan Dainik for a fortnight.

Across India: news since Monday

A Delhi court has summoned journalist Priya Ramani to appear before it on February 25 for “prima facie” committing the “offence of defamation” against her former boss M J Akbar, who resigned as a Union minister in the wake of several sexual harassment allegations. Ramani, who was the first to name Akbar, was accused of making “defamatory statements” that affected his reputation. The court also noted that at this stage it “only has the version of the complainant”, M J Akbar. Ramani responded to the summons on Twitter, saying, “Time to tell our side of the story”.

O M George, a Kerala Congress leader, has been booked under the POCSO Act for allegedly raping an underage girl, who worked as a domestic helper in his home, for two years. The complainant’s family have said that George offered them money to drop the complaint but that they refused. The Congress has suspended George pending an investigation.

In a similar case in Ahmedabad, a 38-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping a 13-year-old domestic worker, after which she reportedly hanged herself. Women domestic workers in India are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and have access to remarkably few protections.

Rape culture

The family of the eight-year-old Kathua rape and murder victim have said that they are facing a social “boycott” in their winter home, reported Scroll in a detailed recap and update of the case. The victim’s father is quoted as saying, “Initially, they said we will get justice in 90 days but it has been a year now”.

The Education Minister of Gujarat, Bhupindersinh Chudasama, has come under criticism for praising “godman” Asaram’s ashram for organising an event to honour parents on February 14 as an alternative to Valentine’s Day (which is seen as having a corrupting influence on India’s youth). The irony has not been lost on most publications. Asaram is currently serving a life sentence for raping a minor at his ashram. According to the Quint, “ The ashram’s ad for the event not only carries a photo of Asaram Bapu, but also mentions that it has been inspired by him”.

The Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendranath Pandey has “stirred controversy” with his “crude remarks” on a photo of politician Mayawati being given a shawl by Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. Pandey “joked” that the shawl was the same one that had been taken off of Mayawati by Akhilesh’s father in 1995 during a mob assault on her.

Assault of minors

In Delhi, the police have arrested a school dropout, Manish Chaddha, for allegedly raping as many as three girls, all under the age of 10. His arrest came after he sexually assaulted and attempted to kill a seven-year-old girl on the terrace of a house. Her cries caused passersby to intervene.

A 23-year-old schoolbus driver has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl.

Media and representation

A seven-part Netflix series based on the Nirbhaya gang-rape case of 2012, Delhi Crime, will be available on Netflix from March 22. The series, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week, has been described in Firstpost as “reconstructing” the case with sensitivity not sensationalism”.

The critiques of writer-journalist Nandini Krishnan’s book on India’s transmen provide an insight into how journalists should handle interviews on sensitive subjects, particularly gender and sexuality. Bittu Karthik, a trans academic, writes in Firstpost, “[Krishnan] perpetuates the old, transphobic media trope of using names and pronouns that do not respect people’s chosen identities” and “distorts” the narratives of her interviewees to pander to “to rich, Western, cis voyeurs”.

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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