Caught via Facebook, rape culture online, ‘plant trees, avoid arrest’

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

The online space is simultaneously empowering and threatening for women, several editorials have pointed out this week. Image is representative. Photo: WD-MAX/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The occasion of International Women’s Day last week saw several editorials focusing on the subject of safety for women, in physical as well as digital spaces. In news, the arrest of a sexual assault suspect after the police identified him from his Facebook profile was covered widely, as was a court’s offer to recall the arrest warrant for a rape accused if he planted five saplings.

Editor’s pick

There’s a lot wrong with how the mainstream media reports on sexual assault, ranging from the headlines to the kinds of images used with stories, says Nisha Susan, founder-editor of The Ladies Finger. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Meghna Anand, she shares her opinions on how reportage on rape can be improved and why it is important to speak “freely and fearlessly” about sexual violence.

Across India: news since Thursday

It took the Delhi police months of persistent Facebook ‘stalking’ to make an arrest in a three-year-old sexual assault case. According to the Indian Express, the police trawled the social networking site for men named Rahul (the survivor knew only her assailant’s first name) and then shortlisted Facebook pages for her to look at. One of these profiles belonged to Rahul Victor, who had posted a photograph of himself posing in front of a restaurant. The woman identified him positively and the police tracked him down using the phone number of the restaurant, where he had worked as a deliveryman.

Social media also came to the aid of the police in the case of two men who pretended to run a modelling company in order to defraud and sexually assault women. The police tracked the social media accounts of Sunny Kumar Verma and Pratham Singla and arrested them from a Delhi nightclub a few days after a woman complained that they molested her, reported the Hindustan Times.

Rape culture

A Ghaziabad court has offered to recall an arrest warrant against a rape accused if he plants five saplings and submits an affidavit in court after doing so. The accused had appealed against a non-bailable arrest warrant that had been issued against him after he did not present himself at trial proceedings. It is not clear if he has taken the court up on its offer.

In Bihar’s Nawada district, six policemen were physically assaulted by a group of men while they were on their way to arrest two rape suspects. Two of the policemen are in critical condition, reported the Deccan Chronicle, adding that the police are still “looking for the accused”.

Five people have been arrested in Haryana for threatening the family of the survivor of the Rewari gang-rape (a case which made headlines last year) and trying to pressurise them into reaching a “compromise” with the accused.

In Uttar Pradesh, a retired IAS officer and several others have been booked by the police for publicly protesting for compensation and a job for a gang-rape survivor. The police say they booked the protesters as they had not sought permission before taking to the streets.

In a country where virginity is closely tied to a woman’s “honour”, unmarried women are often denied trans-vaginal sonograms because doctors assume that they are virgins, reported Swarnima Bhattachary in Huffington Post India. “Trauma while accessing healthcare should not be the norm, but unfortunately, that is the reality for most women. Medical conditions, and procedures, are misunderstood because the information given to women is mediated by a regressive socio-cultural lens”, said the article.

Women’s Day: Opinions

A number of articles published on the occasion of Women’s Day have focused on the issue of sexual violence, including in the digital sphere.

“In India’s post-MeToo months, Women’s Day is a farce”, wrote Rituparna Chatterjee in News18. The “infectious hope” of the initial days of #MeToo in India has given way to despair, with many women deciding to stay silent “seeing the abysmal response of public institutions to the movement”.

An editorial in FirstPost listed five “feminist hashtags” that “empowered millions”. However, an analysis by Anita Gurumurthy in the same publication outlines why “the online space for women is in a crisis” and a site of sexual intimidation and threatened violence.

Incidentally, a recent UN report on “women human rights defenders” also took note of the online campaign — including rape threats — against journalist Rana Ayyub. Writing in Firstpost about the murky construct of “pseudo-feminism”, Aditi Murti also describes the “vicious, sexist abuse” she received for criticising Information and Broadcast minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore when he suggested that women journalists were better suited to desk jobs than on-the-ground reporting.

Assault of minors

Two men have been awarded the death sentence in two separate cases by the Thane sessions court in Mumbai, reported DNA. Ramkiran Gaud received the death penalty for sexually assaulting and killing a three-year-old girl in 2013. Mohammed Abeed Ajmir was sentenced to death for raping and murdering a four-year-old girl in April last year.

In Alwar, Rajasthan, a six-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities and a speech impairment was abducted from a wedding and sexually assaulted by an unknown person. She was found the next day on railway tracks, “writhing in pain and bleeding profusely” , reported the Times of India.

The Law Ministry has proposed that 1023 special courts should be set up for POCSO ( Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) cases to provide “fast-track” justice within two years. The ministry came up with the proposal after it “assessed that there are 1.67 lakh cases of rape and child sexual abuse awaiting trial”, reported the Indian Express.

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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