‘A bird in a hunter’s net’, no country for children, UP minister’s rape age limit

The 11 June edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

A campsite of the Bakarwal community, to which the Kathua rape-and-murder victim belonged. She was abducted while grazing her family’s horses. Image is representative. Photo: Nagarjun/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The pronouncement of the verdict in the Kathua case has made headlines across India. Comparing the victim to a “young bird” who was caught by a hunter before she could take flight, judge Tejwinder Singh sentenced three of the accused to life in prison and another three to five years for their roles in the January 2018 rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir. One person was acquitted and a juvenile suspect is yet to undergo trial. The case received major news coverage due to the communal and political polarisation it highlighted.

Editor’s pick

Many sexual assault cases are reported in India. Why, then, do some gather more media attention than others? NewsTracker’s Karuna Banerjee grapples with this question in ‘The anatomy of a “high-profile” rape case’.

Across India: news since last Tuesday

The Kathua verdict has had mixed reactions. While the Hindustan Times has called it “a commendable job” by the police and judiciary, and the Indian Express has praised the prosecution team for cutting across “fault lines”, others have expressed regret that the death penalty was not awarded, including the victim’s family and National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma. According to Greater Kashmir, the J&K police Crime Branch are “dissatisfied” with the “quantum of the sentence” and are “seriously considering” an appeal.

A news report influenced one of the outcomes of the case

The media’s role in various aspects of the case has also invited comment.

According to the Print, the judge “relied on Zee News footage” to acquit one of the accused, and the channel even found a mention on page 350 of the judgement.

Meanwhile, the Kashmirwalla reported that the families of the convicts have said that they are “victims of the media”, which “made a case” against them.

The media was also brought up by the retired police officer who headed the probe. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Ramesh Kumar Jalla said that the team did not face any “pressure” from politicians, but that “The only pressure that we faced was from media when we used to see different reports in papers, which, to be very clear, we never bothered”.

Murder(s) most foul

The brutal murder of a two-year-old girl in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, by two men — one of whom was out on bail after allegedly sexually assaulting his own daughter — has caused a furore across the country (although contrary to social media rumours, she does not appear to have been raped).

It has also spurred the media to train its spotlight on violent crimes against children that took place subsequently in UP and neighbouring MP, including the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Bhopal, the gang-rape and strangulation death of an 11-year-old girl in Hamirpur, and the sexual assault of a four-year-old by a teen in Jabalpur.

The Scroll asks, “India is witnessing a new pattern of communal politics over dead children. Could anything be worse?” while the Times of India goes over the rather dated data on sexual assault of minors to highlight just how bad “India’s rape problem is”. Firstpost reports on how the MP government “promises strict action as cases put focus on sex crimes” and the Quint notes that there have been “more child rape cases in UP even as [Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath] cracks the whip”.

It is generally the trend that high profile cases bring greater attention to similar crimes in a geographical area, as was observed last month in the Alwar gang-rape case, which drew focus to gender violence across Rajasthan).

Rape culture

Uttar Pradesh minister Upendra Tiwari has come under criticism for suggesting that the “nature of rape” should be determined keeping in mind the age and/or marital status of the victim. He observed, “If a minor is raped, it will be considered as rape“, but that the “matter is different” if the complainant is “a married woman in the age-group of 30–35 years”.

Newly elected BJP MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj, reportedly visited imprisoned MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar to offer post-poll “thanks” to him. Sengar is the main accused in the high-profile Unnao rape case.

Grey areas

The Delhi High Court has found a man innocent of rape after noting that his accuser called him more than 500 times before filing her complaint. The court also questioned her refusal to undergo a medical test and the fact that her complaint came a month after the alleged incident. According to the Times of India, the man had already been “subjected to a full-fledged trial by a sessions court for two years”.

An MLA in Tripura has married a woman who had accused him of rape. The complainant had said he had deceived her by not honouring his promise to marry her earlier. The marriage came days after the MLA’s anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Tripura High Court.

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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