‘Dirty politics’ over Alwar gang-rape, #MenToo, a call for Sharia law in J&K

The 14 May edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused by rival party leader Mayawati of playing “dirty politics” over the gang-rape of a woman in Congress-ruled Rajasthan. Image is representative. Photo: PMO (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With general elections set to conclude this May, the gang-rape of a woman in Alwar last month has triggered a political blame-game, shifting media focus from the Supreme Court’s controversial handling of a sexual harassment complaint against the Chief Justice of India.

Another story that has received major attention is the rape of a three-year-old girl in Bandipore, Kashmir, which led to protests across the state and to former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti opining that Sharia law is appropriate for rapists who target children.

Editor’s pick

According to a HuffPost India analysis published yesterday, Indian politicians have “no interest in prison reforms”, partly evidenced by the government’s restrictions on media access to prisoners. However, how interested is the media in reformative justice? Not much, concludes NewsTracker’s Pranati Narayan Visweswaran in her piece ‘Reforming the reportage on rape’.

Across India: news since last Tuesday

The gang-rape of an 18-year-old woman in Alwar, Rajasthan, turned into a political hot button after the survivor’s husband alleged that the police delayed the investigation because of elections. The fact that the victim is a Dalit and the accused (all arrested now) belong to the higher caste Gujjar community has added another layer of complexity to the case.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) both attacked the Congress government in the state. However, they also turned against each other, with Modi accusing Mayawati of shedding “crocodile tears”, and with her condemning him for playing “dirty politics”. The BJP has also demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who in turn has accused the opposition party of twisting the facts for “electoral benefit”.

The issue has divided media opinion. While some commentators have said that Rajasthan’s politicians and police have “failed” the survivor and distracted from the state’s “abysmal record on women’s safety”, others have taken a different tack.

According to Sreemoy Talukdar of Firstpost, this case has exposed the selective outrage of intellectuals who stand united against Modi. He writes, “This story would have been quietly buried had it not been for Modi, the rabble-rouser himself, and Mayawati, the leader of the subalterns…”.

The Congress has also been facing flak in Goa, where its bypoll candidate from Panaji, Atanasio Monserratte, was accused of rape in March. The complainant in the case, incidentally, went “missing” on Monday. The Congress maintains that Monserratte was “framed” by a “vindictive” BJP.

Assault of minors

Protests have broken out across Kashmir after the rape of a three-year-old girl who belongs to the minority Shia community. This case, too, has taken on a political and religious hue. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has said that “Sharia law seems apt” in such cases and that paedophiles should be “stoned to death”, while the religious body Mutahida Majlis Ulema (MMU) has illustrated that Kashmiris “have forgotten the [religious] path”. The suspect has been arrested and his family asked to leave the village, reported the Indian Express.

In Agra, Uttar Pradesh, an 18-month-old girl was reportedly raped by her uncle and abandoned in a “secluded area”. No arrest has been reported yet.

#MenToo

The arrest of TV actor Karan Oberoi for the rape of a woman who he claims “tried to seduce him” has revived the media conversation on #MenToo, a counter movement to #MeToo.

The Times of India, in particular, has published a series of stories on what it has referred to as “the great Indian gender pushback” from men, including on the intersection of “live-in status and rape law”, and how sexual assault laws are used for “vendetta in many break-ups”.

Rape culture

At least they won’t rape me now that I’m burnt all over” — so has said a sexual assault survivor in Uttar Pradesh who set herself on fire after her complaints were allegedly ignored by the police. The woman says that she was “sold” by her father and sexually assaulted over the years by several different men.

The Bombay High Court’s decision to not pursue criminal proceedings against a man who was accused of raping his minor wife “disrespects rights of rape survivors”, says an opinion piece in Firstpost about a widely reported case involving an elderly man and his school-age wife.

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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