Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Statement on Unethical Media Reporting

*Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression** (WSS)* is deeply concerned and disturbed by the news report *Raped repeatedly, Naxal leaderquits Red ranks* that appeared on page 1 of the Times of India, dated August 24, 2010.

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

However, we question the responsibility of the media and its credibility.Such reporting has serious implications and we as feminists and women’sgroups wish to draw the attention of TOI and its readership to the followingpoints 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 thenewspaper is very clear and does little to hide her identity. TOI’s concernfor the woman in this respect is lacking.

Secondly, the report appears to be interested more in highlighting suchcases in a loose and highly sensational way rather than sticking to factswith rigor. The report has conflated the very serious issue of rape andsexual violence with issues of sexual choices. In fact, the report usesstatements like `she is caught in an ideology that she cannot understand’but makes no attempt to engage with her at an intellectual level, eventhough she is reportedly an experienced person and not merely a woman amongmen.

Thirdly, the story has not been substantiated as per journalisticobligations. Why has the reporter not made any effort to get any version ofother sources- of perhaps differing hues?

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 thearmy, police and paramilitary forces, in the ongoing military operations, isroutinely ignored by the TOI as well as other media sources. This continuesto place innumerable women across the country in extremely vulnerablesituations; rapes and sexual assault of women by police and paramilitary inOrissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, with the inordinate and suffocatingpresence of the police and paramilitary, has risen so high that fear andintimidation of women is high too. It has become impossible for anassaulted woman to even lodge an FIR. Many such survivors of rape in theseregions have been harassed and forced to withdraw their complaints.

Finally, the Home Minister has chosen to comment on the TOI story and claimthere are more such cases - whereas he has been studiously silent on themany well documented instances where adivasi and poor women have tried topursue cases of rape against police, paramilitary and SPOs. A recent exampleis that of an eighteen-year old girl in Gajapati district of Orissa,allegedly Maoist, who was picked up from her village in February along withanother person, during combing operations by security forces, gang-raped andis now languishing in jail. No charge sheet has as yet been filed even after6 months. We urge TOI to bring such stories to its readership across thecountry so that these women also get some justice. We urge the entire mediaand the government to break its silence on the miscarriage of justice in theKhairlanji case.

*As a national forum against sexual violence and state repression, weassert that violence against women cannot and should not be used as weaponsof war, by the warring sides to score points against each other. We areequal citizens of India- our sexuality cannot be used against us. The stateshould allow free movement in these areas so that it is possible to conductimpartial 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

WSS is a network of women's rights, dalit rights, human rights and civilliberties organizations across India. It is a non-funded grassroots effortby women to stem the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and on oursocieties by the State’s forces, by non-state actors and by the inability ofour government to resolve conflict in a meaningful, sustainable andeffective manner.

As represented by: AIPWA, AISA (Delhi), APDR (West Bengal), Action India,All Tripura Indigenous and Minority Association, Alternate Law Forum, Ananya(Karnataka), Anhad (Delhi), Baiga Mahapanchayat (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal GasPeedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, CAVOW (India), CPDR (Maharashtra), Campaignfor Justice and Peace (Karnataka), Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch,Chhattisgarh Mahila Mukti Morcha, Dalit Adivasi Manch (Chhattisgarh), DalitStree Shakti (Andhra Pradesh), HumAnE (Orissa), HRLN (Jammu & Kashmir), HRLN(Madhya Pradesh), Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (Karnataka), Human Rights Alert(Manipur), IRMA (Manipur), IWID, Jagori (Delhi), Jagrit Adivasi DalitSangathan (Madhya Pradesh), Jan Jagruti Manch (Chhattisgarh), LalgarhMorcha, Lokayata (Maharashtra), MARA (Karnataka), Madhya Pradesh MahilaManch, NAPM (Karnataka), NBA (Madhya Pradesh), Namma Manasa (Karnataka),Nari Mukti Sanstha (Delhi), Navsarjan Sanstha (Gujarat), Naya ChhattisgarhMahila Sangh, Nirantar (Delhi), PSSK (Chhattisgarh), Patel Pat Chaunki(Chhattisgarh), Pratidhwani (Delhi), PUCL (india), Rachna Manch, RohidasMahila Kalyan Samiti (Chhattisgarh), Saheli (Delhi), Sahmet (MadhyaPradesh), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (Madhya Pradesh), Samata Vedike(Karnataka), Samanatha Mahila Vedike (Karnataka), Sangini (Madhya Pradesh),Vanangana (Uttar Pradesh), Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Women’s Right ResourceCenter (Madhya Pradesh), Yuva Samvaad (Madhya Pradesh), Stree AdhikarSanghatan (Uttar Pradesh), Stree Jagruti Samiti, Trade Union SolidarityCommittee (Maharashtra), WinG, Women Against Militarization and StateViolence (The Other Media), Women's Commission(Jammu & Kashmir), Women’sRight Resource Center, Women’s Education Forum (Chhattisgarh), and manyindividuals.

Contact email id: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal

I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal........................................By Rabia (Rabi'a Al-'Adawiyya)