Letter to Times of India

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is deeply concerned and disturbed by the news report Raped repeatedly, Naxal leader quits Red ranks that appeared on page 1 of the Times of India, dated August 27, 2010.

We unequivocally condemn any such violence and sexual assault inflicted on women, irrespective of the perpetrator(s), whether state or non state, in any situation, anywhere in the country. If the story reported by the leading daily Times of India is correct, it is very serious and condemnable and the woman is not safe and the law should take its course and action should be taken against the accused. And if the story has been planted or used by the state and establishment as some seem to believe, we still fear for her safety from the security forces now that she has surrendered. It needs to be ensured that the woman will not be put under any pressure and that she will get access to lawyers , friends and family.

However, we question the responsibility of the media and its credibility. Such reporting has serious implications and we as feminists and women’s groups wish to draw the attention of TOI and its readership to the following points in the interest of the privacy, security and safety of women:
Firstly, the woman’s name and position have been revealed in the report, which is against the norms of reporting of rape. The picture in the newspaper is very clear and does little to hide her identity. TOI’s concern for the woman in this respect is lacking.

Secondly, the story has not been substantiated as per journalistic obligations. Why has the reporter not made any effort to get any version of other sources- of perhaps differing hues?

Thirdly, the report appears to be interested more in highlighting such cases in a loose and highly sensational way rather than sticking to facts with rigor. The report has conflated the very serious issue of rape and sexual violence with issues of sexual choices. In fact, the report uses statements like `she is caught in an ideology that she cannot understand’ but makes no attempt to engage with her at an intellectual level, even though she is reportedly an experienced person and not merely a woman among men.

Fourthly, TOI needs to be more impartial in its reporting of cases of rape, irrespective of who the rapist is. We find that sexual violence by the army, police and paramilitary forces, in the ongoing military operations, is routinely ignored by the TOI as well as other media sources. This continues to place innumerable women across the country in extremely vulnerable situations; rapes and sexual assault of women by police and paramilitary in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, with the inordinate and suffocating presence of the police and paramilitary, has risen so high that fear and intimidation of women is high too. And It has become impossible for an assaulted woman to even lodge an FIR. Survivors of rape in such areas have been harassed and forced to withdraw their complaints.

Finally, the Home Minister has chosen to comment on the TOI story and claim there are more such cases – whereas he has been studiously silent on the many well documented instances where adivasi and poor women have tried to pursue cases of rape against police, paramilitary and SPOs. A recent example is that of an eighteen-year old girl in Gajapati district of Orissa, who was picked up from her village in February along with another person, during combing operations by security forces, gang-raped and is now languishing in jail. No charge sheet has as yet been filed even after 6 months. We urge TOI to bring such stories to its readership across the country so that these women also get some justice. We urge the entire media and the government to break its silence on the miscarriage of justice in the Khiralanji case.

As a national forum against sexual violence and state repression, we assert that violence against women cannot and should not be used as weapons of war, by the warring sides to score points against each other. We are equal citizens of India- our sexuality cannot be used against us. The state should allow free movement in these areas so that it is possible to conduct impartial investigations of reports of sexual violence against women.

Committed to the struggle against sexual violence and state repression,
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

Contact email id: againstsexualviolence at gmail dot com

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