Media’s queer ignorance, Kannur perversion, Kerala nun speaks up, journalist’s Babri trauma

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

Leading queer activist Bindumadhav Khire (fourth from left) spoke to NewsTracker about the importance of getting sexual terminology right in media reports. Photo courtesy: Bindumadhav Khire

Journalists reinforce stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people when they use incorrect labels and terminology in their reports, says Pune-based queer activist Bindumadhav Khire. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Pranati Narayan Visweswaran, he spoke of why gay and transgender people struggle to report sexual assault and how the the media’s portrayal of such crimes impacts the LGBTQ+ community.

In I Think, where we capture public opinion on the news reporting of sexual violence in India, we gathered diverse perspectives last week.

Chennai-based autorickshaw driver C Sekar said that victims and their families may feel “defamed and violated” by media reports, and domestic worker Lakshmi asked how mediapersons would feel if they were in the shoes of the victim and their assault written about. From Mumbai, student Kimaya Mehta also said rape reports could do with some “toning down” but Chennai-based student philosophy student Rhea Narayan Kuthoore argued that news of sexual assault should leverage the power of emotional language.

From Bangalore, retired policeman Virbhadra Gowda said rape needs to be considered more seriously than other cases, student Mihir Parekh explained why he started a support circle for male victims, and both social work trainee Kousar Banu and retired administrator Ramani N V said that journalists should encourage people to report sexual assault. From Delhi, editor Dipali Singh lauded the media for its role in dismantling a culture of secrets, domestic worker Mageshwari Venkateshwar said her takeaway from the news is that girls need to be “restricted” for their safety, and entrepreneur Anusha Suresh said we need to focus on the “why” of rape.

Editor’s pick

There are times when it is more appropriate to use the term ‘victim’ instead of ‘survivor’ says eminent victimologist Dr Beulah Shekhar. She spoke to NewsTracker’s Harikesh P about the meaning and importance of victims’ rights, and how the media can play a role in safeguarding them.

NewsTracker is publishing a series of articles, from 25 November to 10 December,as part of the #16Days activism, aligned with the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence against Women. Check them out here.

Across India: news since Thursday

Further disturbing details have emerged about the alleged familial sexual abuse and subsequent gang-rape of a 16-year-old by more than a dozen men (the exact number is unclear) near Kannur in Kerala. So far, 13 men have been held by the police, including her father who is believed to have sexually abused her for two years. According to The News Minute, which offered a psychological analysis of the dynamics at play in the case, it appears likely that the girl was subjected to sexual “grooming” from a young age, making her more vulnerable to “re-victimisation” by others. Mathrubhumi reported that a friend of the girl was also sexually assaulted by the “gang”.

While this case was reported widely, other crimes with similar elements received limited coverage. These included the repeated rape by her father of a 17-year-old girl in Raipur who called a helpline number after her mother refused to go to the police, and the arrest of a Chennai man for the long-time sexual assault of his now 18-year-old college-going daughter.

Survivors’ voices

In an interview with Scroll, the Kerala nun who accused then Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal of repeatedly raping her has spoken of why it took her a long time to complain to the police. She described how she felt “evil” for resisting the bishop’s advances and that though she was “scrambling for support” in the church she found almost none until a group of nuns decided to back her.

On the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, journalist Ruchira Gupta in the Quint gave a harrowing account of how she was sexually assaulted and nearly killed inside the mosque and then told to “forget whatever has happened” by a BJP stalwart. She also described a campaign of harassment directed at her when she decided to speak up.

Vinta Nanda, the television writer who accused veteran actor Alok Nath of rape, has said that she is waiting “desperately” to return to normal life. Speaking at a panel discussion, she said she was emboldened to come out with her story 20 years after the alleged assault happened because of the “enabling environment” created by the #MeToo movement. She also spoke of how she barely got work between 2005 to 2018, describing this as the kind of “collateral damage” that survivors have to face.

#MeToo, media and opinion

Two character witnesses for M J Akbar in his defamation case against the first of his many accusers have recorded their statements in a Delhi court. Sunil Gujral, the publisher of the Sunday Guardian, said that Akbar’s reputation had been “damaged irreparably” and Veenu Sandal, a newspaper tarot reader and journalist, called him “a person of high integrity”.

“Irreparable damage” or not, Akbar is still a member of the Editors Guild of India and has been published by the Hindustan Times since the allegations emerged. This has been pointed out in an article in The Print about how “India’s #MeToo accused are back in action”, and that too with “wedding bells and celebratory cake”.

An All India Radio official who was accused of sexual harassment by nine women has been “found guilty” , demoted and given a salary cut. However, the nine women — who were fired after they complained — have not been reinstated. The All India Radio Casual Announcer and Comperes Union (AIRCACU) has called the “action taken report” an “eyewash”, and “an insult to the casual women employees who are victims of sexual harassment”, reported the Indian Express.

A survey of 2500 respondents across India has found that post #MeToo, “almost 80 percent of men have become overly cautious in their interactions with women colleagues”, reported the Quint. This comes on the back of a viral Bloomberg article on how men on Wall Street are avoiding women “at all cost” after #MeToo. Writing in the Indian Express, Leher Kala says that the way this story has gained traction “feels like the world is indulging in a righteous I told you so: see, this is what happens for speaking up”, adding how this “concern for male victimhood is misplaced”.

Rape culture

A 21-year-old transgender student has approached the Delhi High Court after alleging that the police refused to entertain her sexual harassment complaint against a classmate because she is not a “woman”. Currently, Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, which outlines the punishment for sexual harassment, assumes that a man is the perpetrator and a woman the victim.

A 16-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu has allegedly turned “hostile” in a case against a man who was accused of raping her because she was “influenced” by a government lawyer. The News Minute reported that it has a 16-minute audio tape of the lawyer “blaming” the girl and telling her to stop cooperating with the police.

In the courts

Earlier this month, in the context of the Asaram Bapu rape case where witnesses had been threatened and even killed for deposing, the Supreme Court gave effect to the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018. Writing in Firstpost, Raghav Pandey explains why this scheme if enforced properly “can prove to be a decisive landmark in the development of the criminal justice system in India”, where witnesses are frequently bullied into turning “hostile”, resulting in acquittals for the accused.

In Ludhiana, a man has been sentenced to life in prison for the rape of his 6-year-old neighbour.

Assault of minors

An 80-year-old man in Gurugram has been sent into judicial custody after he was caught “red-handed” while raping a six-year-old girl, reported the Times of India. The grandfather of six was reportedly known for distributing sweets to neighbourhood children.

A class 5 student in Begusarai, Bihar, was reportedly abducted by four “bike-borne” men and then repeatedly gang-raped. One of the perpetrators was nabbed by the police when he visited the survivor’s house to retrieve an item of clothing.

DNA published an update on the four-year-old survivor of a sexual assault in Satna, Madhya Pradesh. The child had nearly died when the assault, by a friend of her father, took place this July. She is now reportedly “fit for discharge” from the hospital. The perpetrator was sentenced to death in September.

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!