Violence Against Women And Role Of Media
By Kamala Sarup
Media had still not played effective roles in minimizing domestic violence against women even, media can play a lead role in the society's fight against violence against women. As media is the eye, ear and limbs of the society they could help a great deal in mitigating violence against women.
The media's role should be to expose and generate awareness against society's ills and evils, therefore their role should be still more effective. The media has to be more aware of violence against women. Even, many women have said that the media coverage (of rape or other violence) was like a second assault all over again, because of their insensitivity in using pictures, publishing names, and other violations of privacy.
We have some questions. Will media play a pivotal role in stopping injustices to women? Will media sit together and discuss serious issues inhibiting woman's ability to enjoy right to freedom and right to equality?
News coverage of violence against women has often been sensational, exploitative, and lacking in serious analysis of the prevalence. However, media coverage and depictions of sexual assault and domestic violence have begun to change. Although problems remain. Media also have a duty to report accurately on acts of violence against women. Although some in the media are to be commended for their ongoing efforts to reflect sensitive, diverse, and egalitarian images, others in the media still incorporate images that convey destructive messages. Still women's bodies are used as objects to sell products. Media should highlight injustices meted out to women by the male dominated society. Media's growing role in highlighting violence against women and stressed the need for creating awareness among the victim women about their rights, so that they could protect themselves.
A Multi-Country Study, is a comprehensive analysis of domestic violence in nine developing countries based on data from Demographic and Health Surveys finds high rates of domestic violence in all cases and specifies that over 40% of women in several countries report being victims of spousal or intimate partner abuse. In summary, the number of ever-married women reporting spousal physical or sexual abuse was highest in Zambia (48%), Colombia (44%), and Peru (42%) and lowest in Cambodia (18%), India (19%), and the Dominican Republic (22%). About one in three women in Egypt (34%), Nicaragua (30%) and Haiti (29%) reported such abuse. Interestingly, in most countries, the highest rates of violence occur in moderately wealthy households and not, as commonly assumed, among the poorest households. Women are most at risk at home and from men they know, usually a family member or spouse.
A new report by global human rights group, Amnesty International accuses countries the world over of failing to protect women, saying one in three of them continues to face violence in and outside home. Amnesty says millions of women are beaten, raped, murdered, assaulted or mutilated - only because they are women. At least one in three women faces serious violence, it says quoting a study based on 50 surveys conducted across the world. The 122-page report - called 'It's in our hands - Stop Violence against Women' - stresses that women are subjected to violence at the hands of the state or armed groups, the community or their own family. Violence takes different forms.
The role of media is crucial to the issue of violence against women, both in terms of how media cover the issue, and how media may be used as a tool to help activists and governments raise awareness and implement programs on this issue.media should also project the means to combat violence.
Pratyoush Onta stated in his report "The mainstream media is very much politicized and it picks up women issues according to the political interest of patron political parties. Due to the lack of resources and trained work force, the media is not capable to produce widely impressive materials. Some of the women issues like trafficking, prostitution and rape come in the media just to create sensation. The media seems to be less concerned about women's issues and rights. the following recommendations can be advanced for futher action regarding media advocacy to combat violence against women.
The networks of NGOs, advocating for women's cause, should try to include media in their network, they should not see media as their adversary.The women's advocacy NGOs, networks alliances should maintain transparency in their organizational structure, financial source and activities. They should feel free to provide information about their organizations and activities. It is not enough to inform people that VAW is increasing in our society, it is also imperative to let them know that there are ways to diminish the VAW and what actions can be taken to deal with particular case of VAW. Sometimes media itself becomes a cause to provoke VAW and materials presented by it can be called as an act of VAW. For example, defaming false remark about some woman in the media may cause her to suffer. Publication of obscene materials is an act of VAW for it demean women's dignity. The media should be conscious to present women in their right perspective. The persons working in the media should be made conscious and sensitive about gender issues and women's human rights. despite media's exposure of violence, women and their families were still unwilling or afraid to come forward to take advantage of whatever laws were on the statute book for the protection of women".
Media had been exhibiting a great deal of violence, but the problem arose because the morals and ethics of a particular incident were underemphasised and the acts of violence were overemphasised. Media held a mirror that exposed the ills of society. Though cases of violence against women have always existed, the media has to play an important role in taking up the issues. In addition to various brutal forms of violence against women, there are some lesser offences including wife-battering, unnecessary restrictions, like not allowing the wife to go out, etc. Despite being considered as a violation of human rights, these practices are, more or less, accepted in our society.
Beena Sarwar, a TV producer in Pakistan, said media did play a role in combating violence against women. She referred to the Meerawala incident where the victim did not want to speak about her ordeal, but it was a local journalist who reported the incident, which was then taken up by national and international media who brought the case to the limelight and serious action was taken against the criminals.
Even Media had helped in promoting human rights, so media should act as a pressure group against these injustices.
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines Violence Against Women as such: ' Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men. Some groups of women, such as belonging to minority groups, indigenous women, refugee women, migrant women, women living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in institutions or in detention, female children, disabled women, elderly women and women in situations of armed conflict, are especially vulnerable to violence'.
"Increasing rates of trafficking and alarming increases in HIV/AIDS infection in women and children, fuelled by gender inequalities, stigmatization, violence and discriminatory attitudes, as well as the widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of intimidation and war, amply demonstrated the continued relevance of international commitments to eliminate violence against women and the urgent need for concerted international action". Women activist Puja Budhathoki said.
Existing discriminatory laws, lack of support system for survivors of trafficking, and lack of specific laws on sexual assaults have further aided the rise in violence against women. Due to murder, rape, sexual abuse, battering, mental torture and various other kinds of violence, women of every community, class, level and economic status were being deprived form the rights of living with dignity.Thus, the demand that living free from violence is women's human rights had been raised globally. Violence is committed against every weaker group. She argued. Even recently, women rights activists stress on the need to ratify the optional protocol of Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to end all types of violence against women. Nepal ratified the CEDAW in 1991. CEDAW states that member countries should end all discrimination against women. Although the government has already signed its Optional Protocol, ratification has yet to be made. The protocol authorizes the CEDAW committee to intervene in case severe violence is not addressed.
Even after years of signing and ratifying the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), women continue to suffer from serious discrimination and violence all over the world.
In order to better enforce women's human rights and fully implement the CEDAW, the UN had adopted the Optional Protocol in 1999 including provisions of access to justice for women at the international level. The UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol because violations of women's human rights remain widespread in all societies and cultures and because women are not aware of their rights and have difficulty getting remedies for violations of these rights. Activists believe that the Optional Protocol benefit women by catalyzing changes in national law and practices by motivating government to ensure that the Convention is implemented at the national level and national remedies are effective in order to avoid being called to account at the international level. Likewise, it could also provide redress for individual victims. "Cultural and social norms of patriarchal family and society are the root cause of violence against women. change in patriarchal society and traditional thinking could be the solution to the render biased violence. Women are victimised in the name of religion and tradition. It is difficult to change the conservative mind of people but slowly we will have to try to change the tradition. Good implementation of laws and clear concept at the policy making level are the most important things to change the society." Puja argued. So, violence against women, in any of its forms, should never be condoned or romanticized under any circumstances. Media have the power to help create healthy communities in part by portraying healthy, constructive communities. By increasing access to confidential resources and information about sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking and by improving law enforcement communication between jurisdictions, media are critical to ending violence against women and girls. As with most positive technological developments, potential negative impacts are inherent and should be addressed. So, media should develop story lines, images, characters, programs, and products that promote healthy attitudes toward women, masculinity, relationships, and sexuality. Media should provide fair and full coverage of women in politics, sports, business, health, and education.
(Kamala Sarup is editor to http://peacejournalism.com/)