Newspaper ‘failed’ employees, MeToo and women journos, watching language

The 28 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

The Deccan Chronicle “failed the accuser and the accused” in a sexual harassment complaint by failing to set up a proper complaints panel, claims a HuffPost India report. Image is representative. Photo: Websubs/Pixabay

With #MeToo revelations slowing down, the focus of the media is now turning to how complaints are addressed within organisations. At the same time, how the media itself tackles gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace has been a recurring subject of discussion.

In the news pages, developments around the Kerala priest case continue to be followed closely by the national press. On the other hand, reporting on the Gaya murder case — where the media widely covered protests against the police for covering up the alleged rape of the teenage victim — has dwindled to almost nothing after the autopsy results and investigative findings pointed towards an “honour killing”.

Editor’s pick

Indian journalists may be “educated” but they are not always sensitive, says Rachana Mudraboyina, the creator of India’s first YouTube channel for transgender issues. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Manisha Koppala, she says more journalists need to be trained so that they do not propagate “transphobia, discrimination and negativity” in their reporting.

Across India: news since Thursday

“Leading lights of [the] cultural and media world” have come out in support of the Save our Sisters (SOS) action forum, which led the protests against Franco Mulakkal,the priest who stands accused of raping a nun, reported the Hindu. SOS has appealed to the Kerala chief minister to intervene in the church’s transfer order of the nun’s supporters as they believe the women being “separated” will weaken the case against Mulakkal.

The rape case and the church’s subsequent stance in favour of the accused continues to invite media commentary. The focus last week was on Sister Lucy Kalapura, who has faced “disciplinary” action for speaking out against Mulakkal. HuffPost India has described her as the nun who is “fighting to end sexual abuse in India’s churches despite threats”, the Economic Times has said that the church is “bent” on “reining her in” and the NewsMinute has drawn attention to how her “crimes” according to the church include publishing poems, supporting a sexual assault survivor and learning how to drive.

Media in focus

The national daily Deccan Chronicle “did nothing” about a sexual harassment complaint it received in 2014 and thus “failed the accuser and the accused,” claims a HuffPost India report by Betwa Sharma. The Chronicle’s resident editor in Bangalore is quoted as saying that the complainant was a “dangerous woman who gives women journalists a bad name” and that an “informal” panel found her accusations to be baseless. This, writes Sharma, is besides the point because of the “broader systemic implications of this case”. She notes, “[T]he case of the Deccan Chronicle suggests that while media houses have celebrated women speaking out against their abusers, the same organisations are loathed [sic] to institutionalise the legally mandated Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs)”.

In an editorial titled ‘The reporter, her story’ in the Indian Express, Lina Mathias and Meena Menon tackle the criticism that #MeToo has resulted in self-indulgent journalism by women, resulting in the sidelining of other victims who do not have as much power. Matias and Menon argue that women journalists have battled sexism and misogyny and “travelled a long distance”. #MeToo, they say, “provides an acknowledgement of the hurdles in their way, and their resilience”.

The Home Ministry of India has in a recent communication barred the media from revealing the name of any sexual assault victim without a court order. The notice also directed the police to redact the name of the victim in “all records which may be scrutinised in the public domain”.

Rape culture

In Vijayawada, the family of an eight-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by her teacher have said that they want to move because of the “social stigma” of the case, reported the Hindu. On the day of the attack, the child returned bleeding from school and had to receive stitches for her injury.

In Mumbai, a model was allegedly killed by a photographer after she refused to have sex with him. Before killing her, he incapacitated her by hitting her on the head with a stool and attempted to rape her. In a similar case in Haryana, an engineer was stabbed to death by two acquaintances after she resisted their attempt to rape her in a vehicle.

Language and representation

The framing of sexual violence and gender issues in media, entertainment and public discourse is a subject that has been highlighted in various ways over the past few days.

Speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival, feminist writer Germaine Greer said that it is more accurate to say that ‘Nirbhaya’ was a victim of “brutal murder” rather than “rape”. She added, “Do not sexualise crimes of violence”. (For those interested in knowing more about Greer’s controversial views on rape, NewsTracker has compiled a handy guide.)

In Firstpost, Srinivasa Prasad calls for a crackdown on the use of “filthy” language in politics, especially when it reinforces caste or gender biases. He gives the example of how Dalit politician Mayawati was mocked as being “worse than a eunuch” by another leader because of her response to a 1995 assault by rival political workers. At the time of the attack, where she had said she feared she would be raped, a leader had gone as far as to question whether she was “beautiful enough” for that to be a possibility.

The blockbuster Simmba is a “throwback to Hindi films’ depiction of rape as entertainment”, writes Shubhra Dixit in Firstpost. Dixit says, “The surges in the women’s movement are hope-giving, but… popular culture takes those issues and reduces them to mass-y fantasies that only serve to further the status quo; changing nothing — while masquerading as a demand for change”

Another Bollywood filmmaker, Karan Johar, caused outraged when he said in an interview that he killed off a character in the film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil because she “couldn’t” fall in love with the besotted main protagonist. People on social media, says the Quint, are “pointing out the stark reality about how jilted lovers resort to stalking, acid attacks, rape threats and worse”.

Nandini Krishnan, the author of Invisible Men: Inside India’s Transmasculine Networks, has come under criticism for the “misgendering, Brahmanism, disrespect, incomprehension, patronising outlook and other issues” in her book. Writing in Scroll, Shals Mahajan says that though she has issued a “non-apology” of the kind that has “become part of our daily media dose”, her “power and privilege” has allowed her to become a fixture on panel discussions about gender and sexuality.

In the courts

The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Maharashtra government about its “insensitivity” in dealing with the 2013 gang-rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills. The court chastised the state government for not ensuring an expedited hearing to confirm the death sentence given to the convicts in 2014.

A sessions court in Assam has awarded the death penalty to a man for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in 2017. The man was reportedly working as a domestic helper in the victim’s home.

The Delhi High Court has reversed the acquittal of a man who was accused raping his seven-year-old neighbour. The high court sentenced the man to 12 years in prison and said it wanted to “send a message to society at large”. The HC also criticised the trial court that had acquitted the man based on inconsistencies in the victim’s statement, saying that the original verdict “borders on perversity”.

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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