Unnao unites media, 3-year-old raped and beheaded, man ‘loses’ wife in bet
The 6 August edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
The Unnao rape case has been a subject of intense reportage ever since the survivor met with an accident under suspicious circumstances on 28 July. Most sections of the media have been unusually united in questioning the BJP’s allegedly soft stance towards the rape accused, MLA Kuldeep Sengar, who has also been booked for murder by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the accident.
Why do Indian men stay ‘off the record’ when talking to the media about sexual violence? NewsTracker’s Anunaya Rajhans explores this question and its implications for the news reportage on sexual assault in his piece, ‘The silence of men’.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
The Unnao rape survivor and her family were failed by the Indian system in multiple ways, many media commentators have pointed out.
The police has come under particular scrutiny. In ‘Two years and 35 complaints later, Unnao rape case is tragic display of faith that system will somehow prevail’, Nisha Susan in Firstpost brings attention to the survivor and her family’s “heart-breaking” and mistaken belief “that dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s and getting the birthdates right would encourage the police to actually protect them”.
In an Indian Express op-ed titled ‘Helpless in Unnao’, Prakash Singh, chairman of the Indian Police Foundation, describes how there was a “complete failure at all levels of administration, particularly in the police”. He also calls for the enactment of the witness protection law. Advocate Abhinav Sekhri in the Hindustan Times delves deeper and calls for a “rethink” of India’s entire witness testimony process.
In ‘A rape, many bodybags: Unnao case underscores clout powerful people wield, and damage they can do’, Salik Ahmad in Outlook points out how the Nirbhaya case “forced lawmakers to come up with a stringent law against rape, the purpose of it mainly as a deterrent. But there are people who believe they are above the law, and for them such deterrence hardly matters”.
In DNA, an editorial says the Unnao rape case shows why “judicial activism is critical”, particularly since the “government machinery has become so slack, corrupt, partisan and rusty”.
India’s culture of “toxic masculinity” has also been implicated. In ‘Unnao rape survivor’s case shows rural India needs a MeToo’, Zainab Sikander in the Print describes how “every possible remedial step this woman took was hindered by men who somehow kept making her, her complaint, and her pursuit of justice irrelevant”.
Voices of protest
A schoolgirl in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, came into the media limelight when she asked a police officer, “The Unnao girl is in hospital. So if we protest, what is the guarantee that we will get justice?” The video receiving so much attention, however, has “scared” her family. Her father told the Indian Express that he does not want her to “land in trouble” and that he did not send her to school after the video emerged.
An American woman who was sexually assaulted by her landlord in India has published an emotional video about her assailant being granted bail. She says in the ‘viral’ video, “India’s incredible corruption and lack of support for women that are attacked is continuing. They refuse to help me yet they say that they want to stop the violence against women in their own country”.
Assault of minors
In Jharkhand, chilling CCTV footage has been captured of a man casually picking up a three-year-old girl who was sleeping at a railway station and walking away with her in his arms. He and an accomplice later allegedly gang-raped, strangled, and beheaded the child. The main accused, Rinku Sahu, a father of three, is reportedly a “repeat offender”.
Last week, the Lok Sabha cleared the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) amendment bill, which provides for the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault of children. Around the same time, two men were sentenced to death for crimes against children — Anil Pandey for the 2018 rape and murder of a three-year-old girl by a district court in Surat, and Manoharan by the Supreme Court for raping and killing a 10-year-old girl and murdering her 7-year-old brother in 2010.
However, executions in general are rare, with the last one for rape and murder being carried out in 2004. In a two-part series in Firstpost (see here and here), author and activist Pinki Virani writes about why she believes politicians protect rapists by “permitting inordinate delays and presidential pardons”.
In what has been described as “modern-day Mahabharat”, a man in Uttar Pradesh bet his wife while gambling and let two of his friends rape her twice when he lost.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
See the full list of rape and sexual violence cases reported this week and earlier on our web tool, NewsTracker Data. Use our search function or select one of our boards (such as #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, or #PoliticsofRape) to read reports on specific cases and/or themes.
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