Pulwama and rape culture, quick convictions vs. death, a family silenced

The 21 February edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Journalist Barkha Dutt was subjected to “hundreds” of sexually abusive messages after she tweeted her support for Kashmiris being targeted after the Pulwama terror attack. Photo: WEF/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Emotions in India have been running high after the February 14 terrorist attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, that resulted in 40 Central Police Reserve Force (CRPF) personnel losing their lives. With anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmir sentiments rising to a crescendo on social media, those who have expressed contrarian sentiments have been subjected to online abuse. Disturbingly, a number of women (including journalists) have reported receiving a flood of violent “rape threats” aimed at silencing them.

Editor’s pick

In ‘Four things to know when reporting on sexual offences against children’, NewsTracker’s Pranjal Mishra lists the dos and don’ts of writing about POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) Act cases for journalists.

Across India: news since Monday

The National Commission for Women (NCW)has asked the police to initiate an investigation into the online harassment of leading journalist Barkha Dutt, who said she received “hundreds” of sexually explicit messages and threats after expressing her support for Kashmiris who were targeted in the wake of the Pulwama attack. Dutt, who says her personal phone number was circulated on Twitter to galvanise “an organised hate campaign”, has said that the platform is “vile enabler of sexual abuse and violence”. Several press associations in India have banded together and issued a “statement of solidarity” asking the government to take action against online trolls.

Rape culture

Journalists are not the only target of sexually explicit threats in the wake of Pulwama. A teenage girl from Kolkata who had written a post on Facebook in support of Kashmiris was subjected to not only sexual harassment online, but was informed that men were trying to locate her house through her social media pictures. The police is currently investigating the matter. In Guwahati, a professor who mentioned “atrocities” against Kashmiris in a Facebook post was also subjected to “rape and death threats” and has reportedly gone “missing” (some reports say she has “gone underground”).

In an in-depth investigative report, the Quint’s Akanksha Kumar writes about the alleged abduction and rape of a Dalit teenager and the subsequent “silencing” of her family through threats and intimidation. She also asks a pertinent question: “is [the victim’s] family really being threatened or are they being pushed towards accepting a deal by an accused and his accomplices keen to skip due process of the law?”

Crime and punishment

The death penalty debate has gained some traction in the media in recent weeks after Prime Minister Modi spoke vociferously in support of it. However, Ashif Shaikh in the Hindustan Times argues that his work with sexual assault survivors in Madhya Pradesh (which has seen a slew of death penalty sentences) has shown him that “the only way to prevent sexual violence against children and women is through swift convictions”. He notes that capital punishment, on the other hand, “can lead to underreporting of such cases”.

In Jharkhand, a district court has sentenced a man to death for the September 2018 rape and murder of a three-year-old girl. Few further details of the case have been reported.

The Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction of a 30-year-old man for the rape of a 16-year-old boy. Dismissing the convict’s appeal the court said “time has come to protect the interest of the victims as well”, reported the Hindu.

Assault of minors

In New Delhi, a man has been arrested for repeatedly raping his 10-year-old neighbour. The survivor said he threatened to kill her if she told anyone about his actions, but she eventually confided in her mother.

In Jalandhar, a 14-year-old boy has been taken into police custody for attempting to sexually assault a seven-year-old girl.

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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