‘Cacophony Over Sexual Abuse of Actress Exposes State of Kerala’s Social Culture’

The actress was abducted in Kochi on the night of February 17 and molested by a gang of men who also took pictures and video footage of her.

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), on July 6, issued a statement, condemning the abduction and rape of a Malayalam actress, citing that the incident “exposes the putrid social culture in Kerala”. The 30-year-old actress was abducted in Kochi on the night of February 17, 2017 and molested by a gang of men who also took pictures and video footage of her.

While three of the seven men accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her were arrested by the Kerala police, several media outlets had come under fire for the manner in which the incident was reported. After the incident, a few women in the movie industry, to deal with gender discrimination, formed their own association, Women in Cinema Collective, the first of its kind in Asia.

“This case so far has exposed the fetid characteristics of the social life in the state; of the film industry, media, the state police, and what is known as the government. The case is example to how little people of the state care about and have internalised the true meaning of the term justice”, AHRC, which works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia, wrote in its statement.

Soon after the first set of accused in the incident were arrested, the incumbent chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, had said “there is no abetment and criminal conspiracy behind the case”. The police had not even concluded the investigation when Vijayan had made the statement.

The AHRC said, “The (chief minister’s) statement is only a shameful proof to the undeterred practice of politicians illegally intervening in criminal investigations in India. The statement highlights how little knowledge and therefore respect politicians have to the constitutional oath of office and secrecy they affirm when assuming office.”

The statement also condems the way the media has followed the case. The statement says that the media has been constantly ignoring “professional ethics and statutory mandates”. One leading newspaper even named the actor in their earlier reports.

“In short, the state’s media outlets are keeping up the hype to feed into and flare-up the voyeuristic mind set of the public. They are not discharging any professional duty. The understanding that the media has a role to play in social engineering is absent in the state”, the statement said.

AHRC also brought to notice the ignorance demonstrated by the actor’s peers in the industry, by politicians in the state, and many others who have spoken up in support of the survivor. Many of them had named the survivor in public conversations, out of which only a few apologised.

The statement claims that high level of literacy in the state hasn’t brought any sense of decency in public conduct and that the case is example to the putrid reality in India that the women in the country are not safe.

“The case also proves that the normative framework within which India’s criminal justice system functions is deeply flawed. For justice institutions in India would follow two separate procedures, one for the rich and the other for the rest”, the AHRC concluded.

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