MeToo leaders ‘let survivors down’, church tussle over nuns, rape at school

The 11 February edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

The ‘leaders’ of #MeToo India have received criticism for compromising the anonymity of survivors to get their moment in the sun. Image is representative. Photo: Stokpic/Pixabay

Last week, an editorial in Firstpost raised an important question: what is the ethical responsibility of the “torchbearers” of #MeToo, many of them journalists, towards the women who share their survivor stories with them under the condition of anonymity?

Developments around the Kerala bishop rape case continue to be reported prolifically. The alleged involvement of a gangster and a church tussle over the transfer of nuns who are supporting the survivor have provided plenty of fodder for headlines. As for the progress of the case itself, there is still no chargesheet against the accused priest.

Another case that has been reported widely is the gang-rape of a 19-year-old woman by six men. They allegedly barged into her home and forced the survivor and her father to a secluded area. They assaulted the woman as her father, who was bound, was forced to watch. Four out of the six suspects have been arrested.

Editor’s pick

What drives a person to commit sexual violence? Do perpetrators share certain common behavioural characteristics? NewsTracker’s Spurthi Venkatesh addressed these questions, amongst others, to psychologist Dr Rizwana Begum, who has worked with survivors as well as offenders.

Across India: news since Thursday

There has been confusion around the Catholic church’s position on the transfer of four nuns from the Kerala convent where they are supporting the complainant in the Franco Mulakkal rape case. On Saturday, the Missionaries of Jesus congregation revoked the controversial transfer — which the nuns say would have made it more difficult for them to appear as witnesses in the case. The next day, however, the Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church sent a letter overruling this decision. The nuns have dug in their heels and have said they will not leave the convent. They have also said that the attempted revocation of the order to stop their transfers shows that former Jalandhar bishop Mulakkal still “wields power in the diocese”.

Another bizarre twist in the tale has been introduced by Kerala legislator PC George (who in September infamously called the rape complainant a “prostitute”). He has alleged that his family was threatened by gangster Ravi Pujari for supporting Mulakkal. He suggested that the nuns and Pujari are “part of a “conspiracy to destroy the bishop”, reported Firstpost. The investigating officer has said that no such link has been found and “we have a clear case of rape against the bishop”.

An editorial in the Indian Express, ‘When the road darkens’, points out that the continuing support for Mulakkal indicates a “curious mix of fear and fervour that refuses to assign blemish to religious functionaries”. It lauds the Pope for acknowledging the “sexual offence crisis” in the church, adding, “old beliefs need to be reexamined in the light of new truths and complicities recognised for accountability”.

Media and #MeToo

Journalists advocating for #MeToo have been criticised more than once for “making themselves the story” (see here, for example). This week, DVL Padma Priya makes a similar point in Firstpost, but within the context of journalists’ ethical responsibility towards the women who share their stories with them anonymously. She writes, “We need to discuss…the ethics of being the torchbearer of someone else’s stories; of making a career out of it,” noting that journalists did not always respect the women’s need for anonymity. She adds that “those heading the #MeToo movement have gained tremendous social capital out of it” and that the “discussion has now moved from survivor and accused, to which influencer is bringing down whom”.

A woman journalist with a prominent daily has accused her former colleague, Rashpal Singh Bhardwaj, of sexually harassing her for more than two years. She says that he touched her inappropriately on several occasions and threatened to give her poor feedback for her performance appraisal. A case has been registered against Bhardwaj, reported the Hindu.

Rape and politics

Last week, a woman alleged that she was raped on two different occasions under the pretext of nikah halala after her husband gave her ‘triple talaq’ (see here). The case has now become the focus on an ongoing political tussle over the practice of triple talaq. On Friday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wrote on Facebook (see the full text here) that the case “shocked my conscience” and criticised the Congress party for promising to scrap the bill to ban triple talaq. In Firstpost, however, Soumashree Sarkar questions the timing and possible political expediency of the outrage, asking, “Why… did the government not include the nikah halala clause in the triple talaq bill?”

When the Supreme Court shifted the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex abuse case from Bihar to Delhi last week, Lalu Prasad Yadav took the opportunity to castigate Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and referred to the state government as “habitual protectors of rapists”.

Assault of minors

In Mumbai, a 23-year-old father of three has been arrested for the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. Mehendi Hasan was nabbed after acquaintances who lived on the same footpath informed the police of his “perversions” and that he had been “lusting” for the child, reported DNA.

In Delhi, a 10-year-old girl was allegedly raped on the premises of her school by a sweeper who worked there. The child revealed what had happened to her three days later and said the suspect had threatened to kill her and her family if she spoke of the rape.

In Kozhikode, Kerala, a 36-year-old woman has been booked for the alleged rape of a nine-year-old boy. The child said he was abused for several months, reported the Times of India.

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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