A ‘Christmas in solitude’ for Kerala nuns, survivors under fire, MLA disqualified
The 27 December edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
As 2018 draws to a close, retrospectives have been published on how it has been “an empowering year” for women in their fight for “justice”, especially due to the #MeToo movement gaining traction and because of former former bishop Franco Mulakkal being charged for allegedly sexually assaulting a nun. However, the news pages make it clear that rape culture is alive and well, with several survivors and their supporters reportedly being subjected to blame, social ostracisation and even police action.
In ‘Reforming the reportage on rape’, NewsTracker’s Pranati Narayan Visweswaran points out that though the media has engaged at length with the pros and cons of the death penalty for rape, it has given scant attention to reformative justice. She notes that “it is time that we look at reformation- and solution-oriented reportage” in order to expand the discussion on addressing sexual assault in India.
Across India: news since Monday
The Kerala nuns who protested for the arrest of rape-accused former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal have been “sidelined by their own colleagues from the Christmas celebrations at the convent”, reported the New Indian Express. “Ever since the Franco issue started, the nuns have been sidelined and alienated within the sisterhood”, says the report, adding that those who supported Mulakkal were “active in making arrangements for Christmas”. The nuns say that they are shunned in “churches, hospitals and shops”, but have vowed to “continue with hope till justice is served”.
When Genpact executive Swaroop Raj was accused of sexual harassment by two colleagues and suspended pending an inquiry, he returned home and took his own life. Now, the police have booked the two complainants and several members of the management for “abetment to suicide”. The case has made headlines and sparked a social media backlash against #MeToo (even though the complainants in this case had approached the company and had not divulged Raj’s name publicly). According to Scroll, which spoke to lawyers and corporate sources, Genpact’s suspension of Raj and the complaints of the women do not constitute abetment, and the Economics Times noted that the case raises “shooting the messenger concerns”. Rediff, on the other hand, took a different tack in an interview with Raj’s wife, with the loaded headline, “Did #MeToo take life of Genpact executive?”
The teenager who had accused a BJP MLA of raping her in what has come to be known as the Unnao case has been booked by the police for allegedly providing “false” evidence about her age. The complainant in the “forgery” case is Haripal Singh, whose wife “has been chargesheeted” in the rape case.
Two years after the Bulandshahr gang-rape case, the teenage survivor was reportedly molested by three men on her way back from a coaching class in Ghaziabad. She had earlier been allegedly “stalked” and “harassed” by men who taunted her by calling her “the victim in the Bulandshahr car”, reported the Hindustan Times.
’Tis the season of year-end stock-taking about the impact of #MeToo, and the scorecard is mixed. In Firstpost, Rituparna Chatterjee writes that it “has been an exhilarating and emancipating year for women in entertainment”, and Pooja Salvi in DNA celebrates former actress Tanushree Dutta for making “the first dent in patriarchy’s wall”. Karishma Upadhyay in The Quint is more circumspect when she asks what #MeToo has really changed in Bollywood (“depends on whom you ask”), while Lachmi Deb Roy in Outlook focuses on the #MeToo backlash, contending that many women “are paying the price of speaking out”.
In other developments, celebrity PR consultant Suhel Seth was dropped as a speaker at a CEOs’ forum after the India MeToo Facebook page reminded the organisers of the sexual misconduct accusations against him. TV writer Vinta Nanda’s case against actor Alok Nath is turning into a public war of words. Nath’s lawyer has called Nanda “Alice in Wonderland” and described the charges as a “figment of her imagination” while Nanda’s lawyer has accused Nath of hiding “like a rabbit in a hole”.
Politics and rape
In Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Raj Ballabh Yadav has been disqualified as a Member of the Legislative Assembly after he was sentenced to life in prison for the rape of a 13-year-old girl.
Rajen Gohain, the Union Minister of State for Railways, has been summoned by a court in Assam in connection with the alleged rape of a 24-year-old woman. Gohain has said the charges are concocted and that he is “a victim of political rivalry”.
Crime and punishment
In Madhya Pradesh, a 42-year-old man has been sentenced to death for raping and killing his six-year-old daughter because he suspected that she was not biologically his.
In Haryana, a 19-year-old man was received the death sentence for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. The sessions court judge noted that the case “ case cannot be considered as lesser to Nirbhaya”.
The Bombay High Court has upheld the death sentence of Chandrabhan Sanap in the 2014 rape and murder of a 24-year-old woman. The Bench said that the victim was “done to death by the accused for no fault of her own, except for a reason that she is a woman… The attitude of the accused, according to us, deserves a death sentence”.
More than 20 years after he was acquitted of raping a minor, Macchindra Sonawane has been convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison by the Bombay High Court for the rape of a minor. The high court observed that the sessions court had acted in a “cavalier” manner when it acquitted the man.
An Indian-origin man who had moved to Britain in 1997 has been “stripped of UK citizenship” and faces deportation for sexually abusing a minor boy between 2003 and 2010. The Hindustan Times quoted a Home Office spokesperson who said, “Any British Citizen may be deprived of his or her citizenship if the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would be conducive to the public good”.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
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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