Death penalty too ‘savage’ say convicts, Ramani gets bail, Gurgaon school rape

The 25 February edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Mumbai’s Shakti Mills, where a journalist was gang-raped in 2013 by five men, three of whom were sentenced to death. They are currently challenging the verdict as unconstitutional. Photo: Thebrowniris (CC BY 3.0)

The contentious issue of the death penalty for rape is back in the news. Three convicts in the Shakti Mills gang-rape case (see background here) have appealed to the Bombay High Court that capital punishment is too “savage” a penalty for rape and violates the constitutional right to life. Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari were sentenced to death for the 2013 rape of a photojournalist as they were deemed to be repeat offenders.

Other stories that have received nation-wide coverage include the granting of bail to journalist Priya Ramani in M J Akbar’s defamation case against her, the sexual assault of a three-year-old in a Gurgaon school, and the sentencing of a policeman (who had made news in 2016 when he was kidnapped by the Pathankot terrorists) to 10 years in prison for rape. The “escape” of five witnesses/victims in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case was also reported by most sections of the news media.

Editor’s pick

In ‘The rapes on page 9’, NewsTracker’s Saumya Agrawal examines 30 issues of the the Dainik Jagran and the Indian Express to garner an understanding of how the print media tackles non-high profile cases of sexual violence.

Across India: news since Thursday

The counsel for the Shakti Mills gang-rape convicts has argued to the Bombay High Court that the death penalty, which they were awarded by a sessions court in 2014, was too “savage” and not proportionate to their crimes. Lawyer Yug Chaudhry argued that it was incorrect to “prescribe death in a case where another life has not been taken”. He also said that the death penalty infringes on the constitutional right to life.

Seven girls, including “five rape survivors of the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case” were reported missing from a “child care institution” in rural Patna last Saturday, reported Firstpost. Six of them were found the next day in Darbangha, but not before Opposition parties in Bihar accused the state government of hatching a “conspiracy” to damage the case, in which several “big shots” from the state have been implicated in the systematic sexual abuse of shelter home inmates. The trial in the case is beginning today in Delhi.

Salwinder Singh, a former Punjab superintendent of police who made the news when he was abducted by terrorists in 2016, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of a woman whose husband he was investigating.

#MeToo`

Journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first among many women to accuse former Union minister and Asian Age editor M J Akbar of sexual misconduct, was granted bail by a Delhi court in the defamation case he had filed against her. Charges will be framed against her on April 10. She has said that she will take the opportunity to tell her story, and that “the truth is my defence”.

The sexual harassment case against the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) CEO Rahul Johri “might be reopened”, reported DNA, with the appointment of a new amicus curae and ombudsman. Johri was earlier cleared of wrongdoing by a probe committee.

Women who are not comfortable with approaching the internal complaints committee (ICC) at their workplace with sexual harassment allegations should be allowed to approach the National Commission for Women (NCW) directly. This alternative course of action has been suggested by an “inter-ministerial sub-committee of officials, set up by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted in the wake of the MeToo India movement last year”, reported the Indian Express.

Assault of minors

In Gurgaon, a sweeper at a private school has been arrested for sexually assaulting a three-year-old student on the premises. A three-member panel has also been formed in order to ascertain whether there was any negligence on the part of the school. In a detailed report, the Times of India described the child’s parents’ account of how she had named the sweeper and said he caused her pain, but that the school ignored their complaints. The same newspaper, incidentally, published a report painting the suspect as a loving family man, quoting several acquaintances attesting to his good character.

In Delhi, a nine-year-old student told her teacher that she was being sexually abused by her family’s tenant after she watched a film at school about “good touch and bad touch” and realised what was being done to her. The man has been arrested.

In Rohtak, Haryana, bail has been denied to an eight-year-old boy who allegedly participated along with two teenagers in the sexual assault of a four-year-old girl. The eight-year-old, argued the victim’s counsel, was the one who had “lured” her, reported the Hindustan Times.

Fighting rape culture

Thousands of survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters are participating in the Dignity March — a “nationwide journey” covering 25 states and aiming to combat the culture of victim-shaming. The march, which started last year in Mumbai, has been widely covered after it reached Delhi last week. Describing it as “perhaps the world’s largest and longest march of rape survivors”, Namita Bhandare in the Hindustan Times notes that the stigma that victims face often comes from their own “hostile families”. The Telegraph points out that unlike #MeToo, the march “is a rare instance of voices from the margins being assimilated into a narrative that allegedly remains urbane and privileged”.

Sister Lucy Kalapura, who invited “disciplinary measures” from the church due to her vocal support for a nun who alleged that she was raped by former bishop Franco Mulakkal, has spoken out about “rampant” sexual abuse in the church. In an interview with Firstpost, she recounts her own experiences with sexual harassment and urges other nuns to “not bow down to the priests”.

The details of more than 500,000 people have been added to India’s newly minted national registry of sex offenders. The database is aimed at helping investigating agencies “track and investigate sexual offence cases”, reported the Deccan Herald.

The Hindu, which reported on the case of a domestic worker’s rape by her brother, published a follow-up piece on why it is important to “ask questions” if a domestic worker shows sign of injury or distress. In this case, the victim’s employer advocated for her and encouraged her to approach the police. The article quoted Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal, who said “more and more people” should act like the employers “but it happens rarely because many get scared that they would get into trouble”.

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).

Follow us

You can follow us on @maarnews for NewsTracker Originals and more. Or use the sign up link below to get Note This directly in your inbox!