The number of coronavirus cases in India is touching new peaks every single day. With more than 1.2 million cases the country stands third in the queue after Brazil. Quarantine centres and hospitals are flooding with patients, some have reached their full capacity. But, these hospitals and quarantine centres; the only place one can think of to be safe after being infected, is not safe for women. Various causes of sexual Assault, in such hospitals and quarantine centre, have come in the past few months.
How is India in Women safety?
Astonishingly, India is amongst the country with a minimum number of rapes per capita. But the reality lies far beyond it; 1 rape is reported in India in every 15 minutes, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The reason behind India’s rank in the number of rapes per capita is because maximum sexual assaults go unreported.
About 71% of rape cases in India, never make to the police. The victim is scared of being humiliated by the society, therefore, decides not to speak up the crime against her. Several countries have even put advisory for their female citizen visiting India, not to visit alone.
According to Thomson Reuters Foundation survey in 2018; India came out to be the most unsafe country for women, in the world. There have been numerous brutal rapes in India from time to time. Some of which have covered headlines of the entire world; as an example the gang rape in 2012 ‘The Nirbhaya Kand‘ in which a young woman was raped by four; on a running bus and then murdered brutally, in the capital city of the country. Or, the 2019 ‘Hyderabad gang rape‘. There are millions of such examples.
India has never been safe for women. In the pandemic, the number of domestic abuse have seen an increment everywhere. But now, in the global pandemic; when the entire world is trying to control the spread of the contagious virus; the sexual assaults have taken another form. Now, even the hospitals and quarantine centres are not safe for women.
Sexual Assaults in hospitals and quarantine centers
Sexual assault of a minor, Bihar
In the evening of July 8, a minor girl was sexually assaulted by a security person in an isolation ward; Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), Patna, Bihar. The girl was found at the city’s railway station alone.
She was handed over to child helpline authorities, where she tested positive for COVID-19. The case of the girl came into light when she herself dictated the mishappening with her; to a person who came to visit her from child helpline authority.
40-year-old’s sexual assault, Mumbai
A 40-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by another inmate in a quarantine centre. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone- II), Mr Ashok Dudhe; told media “The woman was sent to the quarantine centre three days after showing COVID-19 symptoms. The 25-year-old accused, who is known to the victim, entered her room on Thursday afternoon and on the pretext of a massage sexually assaulted her,”
14-year old, Delhi
A 14-year-old girl was sexually abused by another inmate, a 19-year-old boy; in a quarantine centre in the capital city of the country, Delhi. The culprit and the person who filmed the entire incident were taken into police custody. All three, the victim and the culprits were admitted into the country’s biggest quarantine centre with 10,000 beds.
Sexual assault of migrant woman Bihar
Gaya hospital, A migrant woman was raped in an isolation ward. The woman was suspected of COVID-19 and was admitted into the hospital’s isolation ward. The 25-year-old victim woman was admitted to the hospital on 1st April. She was abused by a doctor who attended her on April 2 and April 3. The fourth-day reports came and she was tested negative for infection.
When the woman came back home she was terrified. After being repeatedly asked she opened up to her husband and in-laws about the incident. The woman died, the next day after excessive bleeding. The matter was brought to the police by the woman’s mother-in-law.
There are much more such cases, but apart from them, there must be thousands which went unreported.
What do these cases mean?
The above cases through light one of the ugliest faces of India. Even at the time of such a contagious pandemic, women are not safe. Women’s safety in India has been a concern for ages.
Domestic violence has increased globally due to the pandemic and lockdowns. But sexual assault in the place where one is supposed to be safe reflects; how far a chance India haves to make the country safe for its female residents. If women are not safe, especially in the hospitals and quarantine centres, where should they expect themselves safe? And if hospitals are not safe where should they go for treatments?
Being an Indian girl, I understand that such cases are rare and in most cases; doctors and medical staff are more understanding than any outsider. But such cases are happening, even though not very often. So, it should be the responsibility of the government to make strict rules; as well as the people to speak up about the crimes against women. The victim does not need to fear anything.
The very first brick in making society safe for women and men from sexual assaults is proper education. Quality education will form an educated society that knows the difference between right and wrong. Such cases fill everyone’s heart with misery, but things could change, what we need is strong determination.
What Does Shraddha Walker’s Murder Mean for Love in India?
Earlier this month, India was shocked by the news of the murder of 28-year-old Shraddha Walker by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawalla. Aftab had killed Shraddha merely three days after they moved into their new home in Delhi in May this year. Aftab had cut the body of Shraddha into 35 pieces and stored them in a fridge. He was gradually disposing of the body parts in a nearby forest area.
Interfaith Couple and Sensational Murder Trial
After the news of Shraddha’s murder broke in mid-November following the arrest of Aftab Poonawalla, it became a sensational murder trial. The murder was debated on prime-time debates on TV.
While the murder was chilling and one could expect it to cause a sensation, it became a sensational murder trial for very wrong reasons in India. The fact that Shraddha and Aftab were an interfaith couple made it a sensational murder.
Even though Aftab has claimed that he killed Shraddha in a fit of rage while they were fighting, the police are yet to establish the motive for the murder. The media trial, however, has given a religious colour to the murder. Some people, including those on TV debates, have dressed the murder in the language of religion.
The religious colour given to the Shraddha murder and the transcending of the murder beyond its context is a result of the Love Jihad discourse adopted by the ruling right-wing party BJP. BJP used Loved Jihad as an electoral issue in many state elections.
At present, eleven states where BJP is in power have passed legislation against Love Jihad. The argument by the Hindu nationalists is that Muslim men intentionally fall in love with Hindu women and then these men force the women to convert from Hinduism to Islam.
There are also attempts to demonize Muslims after the murder of Shraddha. A man from the UP state recently went on TV to support the actions of Aftab. He claimed to be a Muslim, named Rashid Khan and justified the cutting of Shraddha into 35 pieces.
When the police arrested the said man, it was found that he is a Hindu, named Vikas Gupta.
Vikas Gupta’s statement went viral on social media and Muslims were called out and demonized for his statement.
A Setback to the Freedom to Love in India?
Shraddha’s sensational murder trial has raised questions about love in India. It will hurt the hard-won right of freedom to love.
There are two aspects to be considered. First is the freedom of young people to love or live in live-in relationships. Since the news of the murder reached almost every home in India, it will scare people from getting into live-in relationships. Further, society will also be suspicious of these relationships. Live-in couples already face difficulty in negotiating the conservative society in India and the case will only exacerbate it. For instance, live-in couples in India find it difficult to find a house or rented accommodation. Aftab and Shraddha also lived in rented accommodation. More people than ever before will now hesitate to rent their accommodations to live-in couples.
Second, as discussed above Shraddha’s murder will make it worse for interfaith couples to negotiate everyday life in India. Even though India was never a safe place for interfaith couples, the case is going to make society hostile to interfaith love. Those who were already against interfaith love will use this case to further cement their position on Love Jihad.
Further, society in general parents of young people in particular will turn hostile against love.
A Difficult Task Ahead
The sensational murder trial and the media trial of Shraddha’s murder by Aftab have raised questions about love in India. Further, the discourse of Love Jihad is also back. Hindu nationalists will make sure that the case is exploited to its full to make a case for Love Jihad.
For those in India, who want to preserve the hard-won right of freedom to love, the task ahead is very difficult. Even though the case has already become sensational, they must make sure that it is restricted to its immediate context. If the case transcends its immediate context, hate will win against love. Love must triumph!
Depp v Heard: Underlying the Nuances of Domestic Violence
The recent verdict in the defamation trial, Depp v Heard, highlighted the nuances of domestic violence and was, from gavel to gavel, a singularly baffling, unedifying and depressive spectacle.
Background to the Domestic Violence Case – Depp v Heard
Johnny Depp prevailed in his three counts of defamation against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, on June 1st 2022. Depp sued Heard for $50 million for implying he abused her in the 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The world was anticipating the final verdict in Depp v Heard, which underlined the nuances of domestic violence and abusive relationships.
Heard did not name Depp directly in the article but wrote that she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Depp claimed her allegations impacted his career and ability to appear in future films. Heard pursued a $100 million counterclaim.
The trial consisted of graphic testimonies highlighting Depp and Heard’s horrifically abusive relationship. The trial was televised worldwide for seven weeks.
A Fairfax County Circuit jury, after 13 hours of deliberations, found that Heard defamed Depp on all three counts and awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages. Additionally, Depp received $5 million in punitive damages. However, because punitive damages were automatically reduced to $350,000 – the legal limit according to Virginia law – Depp’s actual damages amounted to $10.35 million.
Moreover, the jury decided that Depp defamed Heard on one of three counts in her countersuit through his lawyer Adam Waldman. Thus, Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages.
The Cultural Phenomenon of Depp v Heard Underlying the Nuances of Domestic Violence
Depp v Heard turned into a cultural phenomenon underlying the nuances of domestic violence. This case brought up emotional experiences for many viewers who have been subject to abusive relationships. It is personal for many people worldwide, and this sensitive topic should be treated with respect and dignity. The conduct of the trial highlighted the difficulty victims face when speaking up about their abuse. The case had both positive and negative consequences for abuse victims.
The case highlighted that men are also victims of physical and emotional violence within a relationship. Following Depp coming forward and admitting he was a victim of domestic abuse in his relationship, this inspired other men online to admit they were subject to similar abuse.
However, viewers’ hostile reaction towards Heard highlighted the difficulty women could potentially face when speaking about their abuse.
The trial re-establishes the need to create the “perfect victim” within an abusive relationship. It creates a false expectation that a woman or any other victim of abuse seeking justice must be likeable and without any fault in the relationship. This case exemplifies how abusive relationships are not always black and white, and the “perfect victim” does not always exist.
Why Depp Won His Libel Case in the US but Lost in the UK?
The Depp v Heard verdict contradicts a similar case taken by Depp, where he sued the Sun tabloid newspaper for calling him a “wife-beater”. Libel law has traditionally been more favourable to plaintiffs in the UK, even creating “libel tourism” allegations. “Libel tourism” is pursuing a case in the UK in preference to other jurisdictions, such as the US, which provide more extensive defences for those accused of making derogatory statements. Depp won his case in the US due to the difference in laws between the two countries. In the US, the burden of proof lies on the person filing the defamation claim, but it lies with the defendant in the UK, making it far more complex.
Heard testified in the UK case against Depp on several occasions. The judge held that the allegations made against Depp were accurate. Moreover, Depp appealed the decision but lost. In contrast to the British case, a jury decided the outcome of the US trial.
The Toxic Culture Surrounding Media
A critical difference between Depp’s case in the UK and his case in the US is the media uproar online and outside the courtroom. Millions tuned to the live-streamed Depp v Heard trial. Millions dissected the testimony through social media platforms. While the UK case prompted outsize media coverage, the US trial took this to an entirely different level.
According to data from NewsWhip, social media interactions about the trial have trumped all other topics in the past month.
The “Saturday Night Live” show faces significant criticism for its insensitive parody of the trial. Many viewers felt it was unfair to make jokes about serious topics like domestic and sexual abuse while litigation proceedings were still ongoing. It felt as though the media had already judged Heard long before the court had made any legal decision.
The Media’s Need To Create A Hero-Villan Dynamic
The trial played out on social media, where Depp fans dominated most coverage. There were social media generated hashtags to support Depp and many hashtags highly criticizing Heard. The trial was treated merely as a piece of celebrity entertainment and not as a domestic violence case.
Heard’s accusations immediately appeared unfounded as social media trial footage was edited, mocking her throughout her testimonies. The #JusticeforJohnnyDepp received more than 19 billion views on TikTok. Concurrently, an estimated 69 million videos tagged #JusticeforAmberHeard. Social media posts needed to create a compelling hero-villain dynamic at the expense of many genuine victims of domestic abuse.
It was clear that Depp v Heard served as a cultural battleground in the politically divided US. Following the verdict, the Republicans tweeted a GIF of Depp on their official account as Captain Jack Sparrow, standing triumphantly on his ship in support of the trial verdict. However, this is not a Marvel movie; this is a real and influential precedent-setting case regarding abusive behaviour. A profoundly abusive relationship is portrayed in simple black and white thinking. The media creates an illusive scenario where one individual rises as the hero and the other as the villain.
The evidence emerging from the trial underscores how Depp and Heard have both perpetrated wrongdoing against each other. Commentators have tried to use the case to evangelize their long-held misogynistic beliefs. However, Depp is not entirely innocent despite the overwhelming support he has received through social media. The case’s complexity underlines how neither party rises victorious, given the abusive behaviour highlighted throughout the trial.
The Aftermath of Depp v Heard & Moving Forward
Depp v Heard is a mirror of our overly toxic culture. We must not forget that domestic abuse can happen to men and women.
Abuse victims are commonly silenced, dehumanized and, in the most extreme cases, murdered by their abusers. Legal proceedings related to domestic abuse should respect both parties’ right to privacy.
Depp v Heard highlights how we should re-consider televising victims’ private lives to viewers worldwide during court proceedings. Censoring personal details in domestic abuse cases prevents personal information from spreading online and creating public entertainment. This would create a safer environment for future victims to come forward and speak about their abuse.
Shockingly, male intimate partners are responsible for 50% of female homicides in the US. However, female intimate partners are responsible for 5% of male homicides. Although statistics related to domestic abuse fall overwhelmingly on women, this does not undermine instances where men suffer as victims.
Depp v Heard represents a cultural phenomenon highlighting the horrors of domestic abuse. This case will serve as a landmark precedent for encouraging both men and women to come forward and talk in the future. In contrast, Depp v heard has the possibility of silencing abuse victims due to the negative backlash this high profile trial attracted.
Rohingya Muslims: Citizens of Nowhere￼
A deadly crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities forced them to cross dangerous seas and paths on foot to save their lives. United Nations called this genocide a perfect example of ‘ethnic cleansing.
Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority group in majority Buddhist Myanmar who follows Islam and speaks the Bengali language. They are around 1 million in number out of the total 52 million population of Myanmar. They are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations. But Myanmar sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refuses to accept them as people with basic human rights.
They are not included among the recognized ethnic groups in the census 2014 of Myanmar which makes the Rohingya Muslims ineligible for citizenship. They live in a stateless condition in the Rakhine state of Myanmar which borders India and Bangladesh.
In 2017, more than 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh due to the armed conflict against them, which was the fastest refugee movement in recent history. They faced communal violence and attacks by security forces themselves.
United Nations described this refugee movement as a result of genocide violence and human rights abuse.
Why Genocide Violence and denial of Rights to Rohingyas is happening?
In 2020, the top court of the UN ordered Myanmar to take measures for safeguards Rohingya Muslims from genocide. But contrary to these measures, the army and top leadership in Myanmar, particularly the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi once a symbol of peace and human rights icon, denied these allegations of genocide violence. Instead, they said that they are fighting with Rohingya militants, not Rohingya civilians.
According to the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 6700 Rohingyas, including around 730 children under the age of five were killed in this violence.
Against these numbers, the Myanmar Government reported only 400 casualties as a result of ‘militants cleaning operations’. But BBC correspondents reported these claims as hard to believe.
Two soldiers from the Myanmar army itself gave video testimony and become witnesses to the International Court of Justice and confess that a mass killing, rapes, and destruction of villages of Rohingya Muslims took place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Basically, Myanmar sees Rohingyas as foreign interlopers and does not consider them as their citizens.
The conflict has started chiefly as religious and social differences between the Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas.
Children are the worst amongst these refugees. UNICEF reported that Rohingya refugees are mostly children, about 60 per cent. They are the face of brutality and unspeakable violence. They are living a childhood with no purpose, education, nutrition, home, state, and safety. They lack any kind of legal protection and human rights.
These helpless children are witnessing uncertainty, disease outbreaks, lack of education, trafficking, child labour, child marriage, bonded labour, gender-based violence, hunger, insult, mental harassment and overall inhuman conditions to face.
UNICEF reported that Rohingya children in the Rakhine state are facing violence, torture, detention, forced displacement and restrictions on movement.
Until, Myanmar makes settlements for safe home return of Rohingya refugee families with full assurance of basic rights of freedom, citizenship, living spaces, violence-free environment and dignity, these children would remain as people of nowhere, settled in crowded settlements with inhuman conditions.
How are the Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps?
Around 9,00,000 Rohingya refugees are living in the Kutupalong refugee camp in the Cox Bazaar area of Bangladesh, the world’s most densely populated refugee camp. Most of the camp locations in Bangladesh are natural disaster-prone areas.
They have to face landslides and recurring monsoon flooding. They are forced to live in a sea of mud, tattered shelters and unhygienic harsh conditions.
Due to humid weather and dust prone winds, respiratory ailments are common with watery diarrhoea in combination with malnutrition.
The most concerning issue is that more than half of the refugees are children.
In March 2021, a massive fire took place in the refugee camp area of Bangladesh and destroyed food and water facilities along with 10,000 shelters. The death toll was 15 with major injuries to many more.
Moreover, mental stress is high due to overcrowded conditions in such camps.
Is the International community responding and helping the Rohingyas?
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the situation as a human rights nightmare.
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Gambia Vs Myanmar case gave a ruling in support of Rohingya Muslims and asked Myanmar to stop the ethnic cleansing of its minority community by security forces and make provision for their safe living conditions. This is a landmark decision that shows international backing and support for the violence against Rohingya Muslims.
Bangladesh is supporting the Rohingya refugees by providing them accommodation in camps but suffering a financial burden and hence initiating a fundraising campaign as Bangladesh alone can not bear the financial aid required for sustaining the lives of Rohingya refugees. As of now, Rohingya refugees are mostly left unaided to help themselves with their basic care.
The World Bank 2018 committed half a billion-dollar support for water, sanitation, food, health care and disaster risk management.
But still, the support is lacking the requirements.
Rohingyas would remain in destitute and helpless conditions until they are accepted as rightful citizens of Myanmar or granted the status of refugees in Bangladesh with necessary safeguards for their livelihood, education, shelter and right to freedom.
How the world can forget the systematic suffering, torcher and human rights violence of such a helpless and poor community. They are humans with emotions, dignity and life. Every human has a place to live a life with utmost freedom and dignity.
Also Read: What are the Human Rights?
No one should have a right to throw out its own people where they are born and raised in the name of original people vs outsiders. It’s the responsibility of the world leaders and every sensible person to deny each and every single unjust act and show solidarity for humanity and kindness. After all, humanity lies above all logic and reasons.
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