Justice for baby ‘Chhutki’, horror after Dignity March, journos denied bail

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

The rape of an 8-month-old girl in Delhi received national and international media coverage last year. The Quint revisited her case in a wrenching video story this week. Image is representative. Photo: Max Pixel (CC0)

The sexual assault of an 8-month-old girl by a relative in Delhi received national and international media coverage last year. The Quint, which nicknamed the survivor ‘Chhutki’ (Little One) and started a crowdfunding campaign for her, revisited the case this week in a wrenching video report that highlights the harrowing aftermath of rape.

The news pages have featured several updates as well, particularly in the Muzaffarpur shelter home and Shakti Mills cases.

Editor’s pick

The media is often tone deaf when reporting on sexual assault against children, says Megha Bhatia, the founder of Our Voix, an organisation that works on preventing child sexual abuse. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Saumya Agrawal, Bhatia discusses the importance of respecting privacy laws and why it is essential for the media to be additionally sensitive when reporting on cases involving minors.

Across India: news since Monday

A “key witness” in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, which involved the systematic sexual abuse of vulnerable minors by several people, has been “tracked down” after she went “missing” from a short-stay home (along with six others, who had been found earlier), reported DNA. The circumstances around their “escape” are still unclear. Meanwhile, in Delhi where the case is being heard, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has appointed two special public prosecutors, having been chastised earlier this week by the court for a delay in doing so. Both sides have been directed to commence arguments on March 2.

The Central government has argued that the death penalty for rape can “deter future crime” and that even if a victim lives, sexual assault “affects her soul and her personality too”. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh made this argument on behalf of the government before the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the death penalty for three convicts in the Shakti Mills gang-rape case. The convicts, adjudged to be repeat offenders, had contended that the death penalty is too harsh a punishment for rape and is unconstitutional as it revokes the right to life.

The Kerala High Court has directed that the rape trial of Malayalam actor Dileep must be carried out under a woman judge and should be concluded in nine months. The court in doing so accepted an appeal for a woman judge made by the survivor and also overruled Dileep’s argument that the case should not be given “special consideration”, reported The News Minute. Dileep stands accused of “masterminding” the sexual assault of an actress he allegedly held a grudge against.

One of the accused men in Chennai’s Ayanavaram case, involving the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl by several workers in her apartment complex, has died after an illness. His family have alleged that he was denied proper medical care because the police “had made up their mind that he was a rapist and hence deserved to be treated badly”.

Media in focus

A Haryana court has turned down the anticipatory bail plea of three journalists in a sexual harassment case because of the “seriousness of the allegations” and because of their use of “derogatory” language in the petition, reported the Hindu. The complainant, who worked with an English daily, has said that journalist Rashpal Bhardwaj sexually harassed her and also “conspired” with two other journalists to post “defamatory messages” about her on social media. In his submission to the court, Bhardwaj said the complainant is “no babe in the woods” and also described her work as “cut-copy-paste” jobs.

In an interview with Joanna Lobo in Firstpost, journalist Priyanka Dubey describes the effort behind her book No Nation for Women: Reportage on Rape from India, the World’s Largest Democracy. In the interview, she touches upon her “her journalistic process, the role of the media in reporting rape, and the effect working on the book has had on her life”.

Rape culture

A woman who participated in the Dignity March for survivors of sexual violence has said that she was beaten by a mob for doing so upon her return to her Uttar Pradesh village, reported the Indian Express. The woman had attended the march on behalf of her teenage daughter, a sexual assault survivor. She said her family was attacked by as many as 40 relatives and supporters of the accused and she was beaten until she bled.

The Vatican’s summit on sexual abuse in the church “ended with vague promises”, leaving survivors in Kerala with little to look forward to, writes Gita Aravamudan in Firstpost. She notes that in two high-profile cases of alleged sexual assault by priests in the state, “the Church in Kerala had stood by the perpetrators rather than the survivors”.

The police in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, have arrested three members of a “gang” believed to be responsible for several sexual assaults but have said that proceeding further is a challenge as none of the survivors have come forward with “formal complaints”, reported the Times of India. According to recent government data, as many as 99% of rape incidents in India go unreported to the police.

Assault of minors

In Nagpur, Maharashtra, the police are on the lookout for an identified man who allegedly raped two girls, four and six, at knifepoint after promising to drop them home from a playground. They girls were sexually assaulted and abandoned in a secluded area. Passersby took them home after they were discovered wandering in the area with their clothes in hand.

In Cheedikada, Andhra Pradesh, a schoolteacher has been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl after offering her a lift, reported the Hindu.

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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