A long and turbulent path to justice in UP

According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, Uttar Pradesh has seen a dramatic drop in most crimes, including cases of violence against women. The state government has of course attributed this to the mighty power of its chief minister, Adityanath. But even if this were true, to say the struggle for justice is long in UP, especially for women, is a huge understatement.

In Article14, Mani Chander looks at two better known cases of rape in UP, both connected to politicians, and the multiple hurdles the women have faced in their fight for justice. In both cases, the complainants had to set themselves on fire to get media attention, and both alleged police inaction. Also in both instances, they sought to transfer their cases out of the state for a fair trial. This appears to be just a drop in the ocean of their troubles.

“A quick search of media reporting reveals a series of self-immolations by women in rape and sexual-assault cases that did not come to public attention,” Chander writes. “These cases illustrate the lack of faith and injustice against women in UP. The fact that these women chose government buildings and offices to register their protest in the most extreme form (of self-immolation) signifies their anguish and desperation.

Self-immolation by women is not unique to UP. But since the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not provide such disaggregated data, a study of media reporting revealed a disproportionately high number of female self-immolation cases from UP, in particular those where victims alleged police apathy.”

Climate crisis still a faraway fear for many

During the United Nations General Assembly this past week, climate action was mentioned multiple times. But this happens every year. US President Joe Biden, China’s Xi Jinping, multiple leaders of smaller countries such as Suriname, and the UN secretary general too spoke of climate change, though not all used the term.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August also sounded an alarm for the world, but as Ian Jack in The Guardian points out, in a few days, “A-level results, Brexit lorry queues and Prince Andrew had squeezed the message from every front page.” People are still not worried enough, and aren’t taking it seriously. Many view the impending apocalypse as being far, far away, and our leaders don’t help.

“The idea of a better future has been replaced by one of a future not as bad as it could be, providing urgent steps are taken; but for more than 20 years the science behind our understanding of climate breakdown was widely dismissed either as an international conspiracy or an inconvenient speculation…” Jack writes.

“As recently as 2015, Boris Johnson could describe worldwide concern over the climate as “global leaders driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity”. In 2012 Anne-Marie Trevelyan, now his international trade secretary, wrote in support of a campaign against windfarms: “We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening.””

The attack on the media isn’t stopping them from reporting

More and more journalists are facing abuse or harassment for the reporting they do. Recently, the offices of two more news websites were raided in the Capital, this time by the Income Tax Department.

Sevanti Ninan writes that the government should stop and ask why their tactics aren’t working on the media. In an opinion piece in The Telegraph, Ninan points out, “Neither NewsClick nor Newslaundry has altered the tenor of its reporting in the period between the two visits by the Enforcement Directorate and the income tax authorities this year.”

“If you think of this category of media as tenuously viable, think again. They don’t have to do events to garner revenue and keep the government in good humour so that its ministers grace these sponsored events. Nor do they have to balance their investigative journalism and editorial criticism with offers of prime editorial space to the government leadership to have their say, as one paper famously does.”

Texas’ new abortion law hits the disabled especially hard

The Texas Heartbeat Act, or SB8, came into effect September 1, making it illegal to have an abortion in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. Anyone who facilitates an abortion would also be performing an illegal act. In Texas itself, more than 85% of abortions performed have been done over the six-week mark.

This is the first law of its kind in the US, and has already been challenged legally, including by the Justice Department. But the US Supreme Court has denied blocking the law. To make it worse, the law allows citizens to snitch on and sue abortion providers. Any citizen. Essentially, enforcement of the law has been outsourced to the public.

Samatha Chavarria writes in Bitchmedia, that those impacted most by the new law are people from marginalised communities — “the poor, the undocumented, trans individuals, Black and brown people, and the disabled”. Chavarria points out the financial strain of having to have an abortion in Texas now, or even finding a clinic and doctor who would accommodate a person seeking to terminate their pregnancy.

Chavarria writes: “It’s clear that this anti-abortion talking point doesn’t come from a place of sincere care for the well-being of actual disabled people: If it did, it would acknowledge that it’s actually disabled adults—not hypothetical disabled fetuses—who bear the brunt of anti-abortion legislation. Disabled people sometimes have sex; and disabled people sometimes get pregnant. Disabled people sometimes choose to get abortions, and, when seeking them, disabled people often face extra obstacles.”

Will we go easier on Britney Spears this time around?

Britney Spears’ conservatorship took years to be taken seriously. The singer said in a hearing in June that she did not want to talk about it publicly before, for fear that she would be made fun of or not believed at all. And though many sympathise now, she is still made fun of, since the press made money off mocking her for decades, and because making fun of women is inherent to our society.

Now, finally, after going public, her father – one of her conservators – said the arrangement could be ended if Britney Spears wished to. Spencer Kornhaber in The Atlantic asks if we are ready for this, and if she will be reported about more responsibly.

“It will surely be a joyful day when Spears is able to do and say whatever she wants—and yet her doing or saying whatever she wanted, in the past, was a problem for a lot of people. Even if the courts agree to give Spears her freedom, what about the prying media and the hypercritical public? Have we changed that much—in how we talk about Spears, about women, about celebrities, and about people who may be experiencing mental illness? What’s ahead may test whether the sympathetic documentaries, podcasts, and articles that masses have consumed about Spears lately represent much more than voyeurism in a virtuous package.”