‘Due process’ and #MeToo setbacks, nun warned, a chilling chargesheet

The 10 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Actor Alok Nath may have been ‘falsely’ accused of rape during the #MeToo movement, observed a Mumbai court. Photo: Bollywood Hungama (CC By 3.0)

Two high-profile cases, one of alleged rape against actor Alok Nath and the other of sexual harassment against Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Atul Johri, returned to the news this week. In both cases, the accusers decided to follow ‘due process’ in order to seek justice, but were met with rulings that cast aspersions on their motives and which framed the accused as victims.

The Muzaffarpur shelter home sex abuse case also received widespread coverage based on the 73-page CBI chargesheet, with much of the reportage focusing somewhat pruriently on the violations suffered by the victims.

Editor’s pick

How well does the media deal with survivors of sexual violence while telling their stories? NewsTracker took this question to Anitha (name changed), the survivor of a sexual assault who took her story to the media with the hope that it would help her get justice. In an interview with Tasmin Kurien, Anitha spoke of her mixed experience with different journalists as well as the importance of making survivors feel heard.

Across India: news since Monday

A sessions court in Mumbai has questioned the motivations of TV writer Vinta Nanda, who accused actor Alok Nath of raping her in a #MeToo account (see here) before pursuing a case against him. The court, which was hearing the actor’s anticipatory bail plea, questioned Nanda’s recollection of events and said not “immediately” lodging a case indicated she was acting for her “own benefit”. Bizarrely, the court also suggested that “unrequited love” for Nath may have inspired her complaint. Nath, incidentally, has been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. According to NewsMinute, which was one of the few publications to attempt a critique of the court’s statements, “several studies” indicate that rapes are often not reported immediately for various reasons. The article also quoted Nanda’s reaction, who said it took her so long to speak up because the “atmosphere” was not enabling” until #MeToo happened and that she is not deterred by the court’s statements.

In Delhi too, eight women who complained against JNU professor Atul Johri were accused of having “ulterior motives” by the internal complaints committee of the university. Giving Johri a “clean chit” , the ICC said the complaints (read some of them here) were “baseless” and that it was he was under threat from students. According to the Wire, the matter will be heard by the Delhi High Court on January 25; the complainants’ lawyer has said that the “perverse” ICC report will be challenged by the complainants then.

According to a report in Qrius, the Johri and Nath cases are the latest examples of setbacks “to women seeking justice through due process”.

Case updates

The systematic sexual assault of dozens of young girls in a Muzaffarpur (Bihar) shelter home has been detailed in a 73-page CBI chargesheet that was filed last month.This week, lurid descriptions of this abuse made it to the news media. India Today went a step further and ‘helpfully’ typeset in bold the most shocking terms (such as “made to dance to vulgar Bhojpuri songs” , “raped in their sleep”). Other than the main accused Brajesh Thakur, who faces charges of “sexual abuse, rape and murder”, the chargesheet mentions several others who either participated in or were complicit in the crimes, including the chairman of the district child welfare committee.

The Kerala government has appointed a special prosecutor for the case of former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused by a nun of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016. “ The delay in appointing the prosecutor even after the police completing about 90% of the investigation had drawn flak from different quarters,” reported the Hindu.

It has been a year since the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, J&K. Earlier this week, the state police closed the evidence from its side after interviewing 114 witnesses and the trial is in progress in Pathankot, reported the Times of India. DNA interviewed the victim’s father who saidthat though he is now taking medication for depression he is “hopeful that justice will be done”.

Rape culture

The Catholic church in Kerala has threatened to “expel” a nun for her role in the protests against rape-accused priest Franco Mulakkal, reported the Indian Express. The church has accused the nun of “making false accusations” against its leadership and of writing in “non-Christian newspapers”, among other so-called transgressions. The church has “steadfastly backed” the priest, said the report, even as it has turned against those who fought for his arrest.

In Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, a woman has alleged that she was set on fire after she refused to “compromise” with her rapists. She also accused the police of not arresting the men. The police, however, claim that the woman burned herself by accident. Last month, incidentally, another woman in Meerut tried to set herself on fire to protest against “police inaction”. In that case, the police superintendent reportedly said that “action” would be taken against her for attempting suicide.

In a long feature titled ‘She survived rape. They don’t let her forget it’, the Times of India tells the stories of the struggles of survivors in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Assault of minors

On Tuesday, the government in the Lok Sabha introduced amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, making the law “gender-neutral” and allowing for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated sexual assault” on children

.In Ahmedabad, a 14-year-old girl has said that she was kidnapped by a neighbour when she was 11 and subjected to three years of sexual abuse. The man claimed to his family that the girl was “like a daughter” and would rape her when they were alone together. The girl, who was traced by police, has been reunited with her family.

In Bengaluru, a 40-year-old man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the rape of a four-year-old girl. The trial for the November 2018 assault took place over only three days.

In numbers

The Delhi police on Wednesday released its annual crime data.There were 2043 reported cases of rape, which is only 0.78 per cent less than 2017. Further, the data also showed that in 97.5 per cent of the reported cases, the accused was known to the victim.

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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