Death of a media debate, silence of men, ‘inhuman’ response to shelter home cases

The 29 November edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

In ‘The Silence of Men’, NewsTracker’s Anunaya Rajhans explores how the media can help bring men out of the shadows to join the conversation on sexual violence. Photo: Palash Jain/ Unsplash

The media’s discourse on capital punishment for rape has become problematic, being now largely limited to “what political leaders say and what the courts rule,” writes Sukanya Sriraman in ‘The death of a debate’. She explains why this does “a disservice to the cause of fighting violence against women”.

In I Think, where we capture public opinion on the news reporting of sexual violence in India, Ahmedabad-based Avni Sethi — the founder of the participatory museum Conflictorium — says, “News is no longer news, but has become an exercise in opinion building”.

Editor’s pick

Why do so many Indian men stay ‘off the record’ when talking to the media about sexual violence? asks NewsTracker’s Anunaya Rajhans in ‘Silence of men’. He unpacks how this phenomenon throws light on two things: “how people view news media, and how the news media talks about rape”.

NewsTracker is publishing a series of articles, from 25 November to 10 December, as part of the #16Days activism, aligned with the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence against Women.

Across India: news since Monday

The Supreme Court’s no-holds-barred chastisement of the Bihar government over the issue of rampant sexual abuse in shelter homes has been covered widely. The court transferred the investigation into 17 shelter homes to the CBI, but not before reprimanding the state government for “shameful” lapses such as incorrect filing of FIRs. “If the child is sodomised you say it is nothing. How can you do this? It is inhuman,” said the court. The government is now adding “stronger sections” to the charges, including under the POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, in cases involving minors.

In media developments, the Editors Guild of India, which was recently criticized for including journalists accused of sexual harassment in its members’ list, has told the Supreme Court that it has “no power to act against those revealing the names of rape survivors”, reported the Times of India. The Guild’s stance is rather different from that of the Press Council of India, which earlier this month told the Supreme Court that it was ready to “launch” a criminal prosecution against offenders by informing the authorities.

Crime and courts

A fast-track court has cited “lack of evidence” as its reason for acquitting six men who were accused of gang-raping a woman in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. The men allegedly filmed the crime and circulated video clips on social media. The victim said she was blackmailed into staying silent for three years. The case had earlier resulted in communal tensions in the area.

The Delhi High Court has prescribed “meditation therapy” (along with upholding a 15-year prison sentence) for a man convicted in the 2013 rape of a 12-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities. The court has also asked for “psychometric tests” to be conducted on the convict in order to “measure his reformation”, reported the Hindu.

In Mumbai, a POCSO court sentenced two men to life in prison in two separate cases dating to 2015 and 2016. DNA reported that both convicts were trusted by the families of the survivor and both began abusing the children, a boy and a girl, when they were infants.

The Madras High Court has “with a heavy heart” allowed for the termination of an 11-year-old girls’ 24-week-long pregnancy, which was a result of rape by a family member. Usually, abortions are not allowed in India if the pregnancy exceeds 20 weeks.

Rape culture

In Mangalore, four out of seven men accused in the gang-rape of a woman have been arrested. Most news reports have mentioned that the alleged rapists targeted an “unmarried couple” who were spending “private time” together at a beach. This brings to mind several rape cases (including Nirbhaya), where the perpetrators have tried to justify the crime by saying that they wanted to teach the victim a “lesson” for socialising with a man.

In Delhi, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted and murdered for “revenge”. According to a Times of India report, the child’s father had objected to an unmarried couple living together in the neighbourhood. The man was eventually forced to separate from his partner, and he decided to retaliate by attacking the child.

Rape culture includes not only disregarding a woman’s ‘no’ but also taking away her right to say ‘yes’. In Agra, a 23-year-old woman has lodged a police complaint against her parents and grandparents for forcing her to file a false rape case against her boyfriend. The woman alleged that her family members had burned her with hot tongs when she refused to testify against her boyfriend, and that she feared for her life.

A Nashik woman is likely to face charges of “abetment to suicide” after Sajan Sanap, a policeman she had accused of rape, killed himself. The police had earlier registered a case of rape, stalking and intimidation against Sanap but his choice to end his life could now result in the woman facing prosecution.

Politics

There have been mixed reactions to the suspension of MLA PK Sasi from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on grounds of sexual harassment, reported Firstpost. While party members say that their decision “ is a strong message to the women that the party will not tolerate any atrocity against them”, Opposition parties are saying that the opposite message is being sent since no police action was initiated.

#MeToo

A top official in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Amitabh Choudhary has claimed that cricketer Mithali Raj, who was controversially dropped from the women’s team, has become a “pawn” in the row between members of the Committee of Administrators. The CoA is split over the decision of giving BCCI CEO Rahul Johri a clean chit in a #MeToo sexual harassment claim. Rahul Johri’s ‘camp’, alleges Choudhury, is using Mithali Raj’s grievances to discredit CoA member Diana Edulji who believes Johri is “unfit” to continue as BCCI CEO.

An investigation will continue into the sexual harassment complaint made by a lawyer who committed suicide soon after, the police in Bangalore have said, since there is “proof to support her claims”.

#MeToo has provided an impetus to educational institutions to “strengthen internal modes of redress”, says Sidharth Yadav in the Hindu, but “zero tolerance against sexual harassment is still a step away”.

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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