Social media found another case to outrage over today. However, while there was indeed an upsetting story waiting to be told, the outrage was mostly misplaced as a result of misreporting.
As per multiple reports, Uttar Pradesh Police “arrested” a lesbian couple on Tuesday from a railway station near Adarsh Mandi, in Shamli district.
They were then brought to the Adarsh Mandi police station before being sent for medical examination, first to a Shamli hospital where they couldn't be examined due to the lack of female staff, then to Muzaffarnagar, and finally to Shahranpur, where they were eventually examined.
The couple, according to their statement in court, had been together for about three years. Their parents were entirely opposed to the relationship, and one of the women's parents even tried to marry her off to a man.
This attitude towards same-sex couples, both on the part of the authorities as well as the families involved, is undoubtedly problematic. As a result, two consenting adults have been treated like criminals.
However, in keeping with today's need to sensationalise even the issues that are inherently serious the reports that appeared in the media took a giant leap into the world of fiction.“Both girls were absconding from
“Both girls were absconding from village for nearly eight days and both families have filed case of sedition against each other,” reads an article sourced from news agency XYZ that appeared on the Gaysi website.
Another report in The Ladies Finger, which quotes the Gaysi report, further muddies the water by claiming that the charges weren't against the family, but that the authorities had booked the couple for sedition.
The report goes even further, mocking the authorities for misusing sedition laws in the past. And while that criticism may be true, it certainly isn't true in this case.
As appalling as the harassment of two consenting adults is, it is rather troubling to see facts of the case being fudged online simply to add 'masala' to the story.
In what possibly comes as a dampener to misguided social media outrage, there is no case of sedition. Speaking to Catch, the UP police clarified the matter. “Yes, there were two girls and they were together. Both their parents had registered FIRs and made allegations of 'abduction' against each other,” said Ajaypal Sharma, Superintendent of Police at the Adarsh Mandi police station.
Sharma further clarified that they were never arrested, but simply “recovered”.
As mentioned by Sharma, the action against the girls wasn't a case of moral policing by authorities. It was, in fact, the result of the families of the women who lodged cases of kidnapping and abduction against each other under Section 364 of the IPC.
While Sharma insisted that “medical examination” is procedural in such cases, a lawyer tells us otherwise. While a medical examination isn't “mandated” for cases of abduction, it is, however, common practise.
This flies in the face of media reports which made the medical examination out to be part of the homophobic agenda of the police.
The other baffling aspect of how this story has been reported is the complete lack of respect for facts. PTI, in their copy, mention that circle officer Upender Kumar said that the “girls both named Pinki shocked their parents by expressing a desire to marry”.
While the two women do share the same name, it is interestingly not Pinki, SP Sharma confirms. Also, when Catch contacted Upender Kumar he said that he had no knowledge of the case.
This sort of misreporting can only do more disservice to the marginalised, as more and more facts can get distorted to suit consumption. And the more that happens, the less actual issues are addressed.
For instance, in this case, beyond the glaring apathy of the families who could pose a threat to the women in future, there is also the problem of medical attention. That the women were repeatedly taken from one place to another for what can only be an intrusive check-up is quite suspect.
By focusing on the incorrect details, and by not bothering to fact-check, the media is only trivialising the issue, almost suggesting that the real story isn't problematic enough.