Network of Women in Media’s call to action

Network of Women in Media (Mumbai) organised a meeting with women’s groups on April 25, 2009 at the Press Club to discuss the media coverage of the recent TISS student gang rape and the possibility of future action on the same. It brought together representatives of several women’s groups in the city – including Forum Against Oppression of Women, LABIA, CEHAT, Women’s Centre, Akshara, Point of View, Aawaaz-e-Niswaan, and AIDWA – as well as some students and faculty from TISS.

Everyone expressed dissatisfaction with the way the TISS student’s gang rape was covered in the media. Several sections of the media ignored the generally followed norm of not revealing the identity of the rape victim (which is supposed to include not just the name of the victim but also other identifying details) by publishing the full FIR with all its graphic details. This has also happened in the case of many other stories as well such as the recent tantric and young girls incest case and the Marine Drive rape case some years ago. Generally there is an obsession with coverage of crime and especially those of a sexual nature involving middle-class people. This not only violates the privacy of the victim and makes her vulnerable to identification, it also deters other women victims of sexual assault from ever filing an FIR. Furthermore, it was discussed that by publishing one of the offender’s and his lawyers’ version of events and their mud-slinging comments on the victim, the defence was only building its own legal case using the media as a go-between.

So how do we proceed and make the media aware that what they are doing is wrong and harming the interests of a vulnerable victims? These are the different points that came up:

1. Approaching Press Council with a complaint – even though it’s a toothless tiger, they need to be made aware of the bad/harmful reportage in this case. At least they should be pushed in to openly providing the guidelines for the coverage of sexual assault by the media. The way to go about it is to first write a letter to the particular publication and the forward that letter with a covering letter to the press council (http://presscouncil.nic.in/home.htm). Each of the organisations represented at the meeting decided that they would do this, that is write to the newspaper concerned and then forward the complaint to the Press Council.

Complaint to the Editors Guild – reprimand by a peer group body may be more effective in some cases. These letters would also be sent to the Editors Guild. Rajdeep Sardesai is currently the chair of the guild. The postal address is: Delhi Press Building, Jhandewalan Estate, Rani Jhansi Marg, New Delhi 110 055. 2. Complaint to National Commission of Women (http://ncw.nic.in)

3. Complaint to Police Commissioner – obviously the FIR was leaked out deliberately by someone in the police to the media. While letters should be sent by individuals and groups to all the above, many letters should also be sent to the newspapers who indulged in the terrible coverage – we should keep up the pressure on the issue and “bombard them with letters and comments.” We need to create a big hoo-ha.

Here are the email addresses of the newspapers:

DNA: inbox@dnaindia.com

Mid-Day: mailbag@mid-day.com

Mumbai Mirror: mirrorfeedback@indiatimes.com

Hindustan Times: mumbailetters@hindustantimes.com

(Nandita Gandhi from Akshara volunteered to keep a record of all documentation – a copy of all letters sent should be sent to her email: aksharacentre@vsnl.com)

4. Media institutions need to have a set of guidelines/policies in place about coverage of gender and crime stories – do they have them, are their staff aware of them, can we urge them to have these in place?

5. Gender & crime sensitization workshop/s with reporters, sub-editors and senior editorial staff as well; also with media students and maybe a tying up with various media training colleges in this regard.

6. Media monitoring group. In the 1980s and later, the media was monitored closely for sexist content. This included analysing and looking at ads. Some of the campaigns that resulted from such monitoring did lead to change and a toning down of the more sexist content in the print media. Perhaps it was time to do the same with coverage of crimes against women. Georgina and Subuhi agreed to start such a group. Others interested could join them and work out how to proceed. NWM Mumbai would also post this idea on the national list in order to enlist others who could do such monitoring.

7. NWM group representatives to meet some of the senior editors/staff of the publications involved to explain the implications of such irresponsible coverage (Kalpana and Sameera)

8. Holding a Public meeting – is it possible for us to organize an open public meeting on the implications of the way the media covers crimes against women ? Someone suggested that perhaps we need a celebrity speaker to ensure that people other than the usual crowd attends. Others were not so convinced about this. What was clear was that we needed to meet again, possibly at the Press Club to assess progress on the different plans that had been suggested. Such a meeting could be held either on May 7 or May 9.

15 Responses to Network of Women in Media’s call to action

  1. Sapna says:

    It would be great to be able to post comments on a ‘media wall of shame’ that is fairly well exposed on the internet. I know this isn’t the only solution, but may help to centralize public criticism of media coverage of certain issues…

  2. G R Vora says:

    3.5.2009
    I strongly condemn the reporting of the TOI – Mumbai Mirror on the TISS student gangrape case, wherein the entire FIR of the student was printed on page 2 of the 17th Apr. 2009 edition. This was highly offensive and also violative of the privacy of the rape victim. TOI – MM is notorious for printing obscenities and sexist materials to enhance their readership figures.

    I feel strong action be demanded against the Editor, Reporter and the Publisher of TOI – MM. So am willing to be a part of this process if others a thinking along this line. This would send out a message to other print and electronic media too that they have to be sensitive to the needs of their readers and can’t violate laws of the land for selfish gains. (Incidentally, an FIR has been filed against the Editor – Ms Meenal Baghel, Reporter – Deeptiman Tiwary and one more unidentified person, who were arrrested on 22nd or 23rd April 2009. But are out on bail. We now must demand filing of a loophole-free chargesheet against these 3 accused so that TOI – MM and others of their ilk think twice before printing such objectionable material.)

    Regards.

    G R Vora
    Ph -(022)- 24091193 / 9869195785
    grvora@gmail.com
    =============

  3. Rohan says:

    While I appreciate the work that you are doing to protect the rights and interests of the alleged victim, I don’t understand the bias in appliying these journalistic ethics selectively and only to the alleged victim. What about the rights of the alleged perpetrators? Remember, an accused in a rape case or any other case is an accused and NOT a criminal. Several cases of false cases of rape have also come about and we do not know whether the lady was really raped or she turned concensual sex into rape for whatever reason. That is why we have the courts to decide and judge. Nobody can jump to conclusion that an allegation of rape is rape. Hence, I expect that the journalistic ethics be extended to the rights of the accused too. Imagine if this case is false. What would be the reputation of the accused the way the media has given out their names. Secondly, I see nothing special about crimes against women since ours is an equal society. A crime is a crime and media has to be sensitive to all cases, not just with regard to crimes against women. Just because a crime has happened against a woman, there cannot be any change in the way it is reported provided all press council standards are adhered to. So, what is special about crimes about women? Let media standards be applied equally to all cases of crimes.

  4. Feminist Fatale says:

    Rohan,

    Since you think “ours is an equal society” – clearly you live in some other realm than the rest of us. Please could you give us direction as to how to get there, or travel arrangements and such like so we could all live in this equal paradise.

    The world most of us inhabit in patently unequal not only on grounds of gender (so different standards for men and women for among other things sexual behaviour!), but also of class, caste, sexual orientation, etc etc!!

    FF

    • Rohan says:

      Feminist fatale,
      By saying “Ours is an equal society”, I meant to say that that is what we are aiming at and is in our constitution. Hence, there cannot be any special orientation or focus on one set of crimes while everything else is given secondary treatment. A crime is a crime and it has to be tackled as such. By tackiling all crimes equally and as CRIMES, the seriousness does not get reduced in any way nor does the investigation or solution get affected.

      I never said that ours is an equal society. It is definately unequal in terms of gender, caste, creed, race and what not. Having said this, when it comes to gender, men have a set of discrimination that they face, women also face discrimination in their own ways. To state that women alone are the discriminated gender is a lie and cannot be accepted.

      Since we aim at equality, we cannot perpetuate any conscious form of discrimination when it comes to crimes against anybody for that matter. Special emphasis on “Crimes against women” is patriarchal as in a traditional society, men were chivalrous and special emphasis was on protecting women. Today, men and women should be equally protected and crimes equally tackled.

  5. Shilpa Phadke says:

    In an ideal world I would agree with you. I don’t dispute that patriarchy oppresses men as well. But to say that the discrimination inflicted on men and women by a patriarchal society is of the same order would be a gross generalisation. In most societies of the world men have access to a larger share of resources and have more choices than do women.

    If one is talking about equality one ought to focus on what feminists have called substantive equality in opposition to formal equality. Substantive equality is about ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to access resources not merely the nominally equal constitutional right to do so Affirmative action then is completely in consonance with substantive equality.

    Which is why where the Indian Constitution in Article 14 grants everyone equality irrespective of differences, in Article 15, it also enshrines the right of women and other marginal groups to special provisions, stating that this does not contradict Article 14. (This is the gist rather badly state but hope you get the idea).

    Which is why certain kind of “discriminations” actually promote a more equal society.

    • Rohan says:

      Shilpa,

      Accesses to larger resources or choices don’t necessarily imply everything and it is not comprehensive. 94% of all deaths in wars, in the course of duty etc. are of men. Men have absolutely no support systems. In India, there is a central ministry for women and a commission. All states have their respective ministries and commissions. There are 4500 women NGOs and media support. What is there for the men? This is also reflected in the suicide figures of men. 57000 Married men commit suicide every year as compared to some 24000 married women. Approximate figures.

      Hence, to talk about “Substantiative equality” is unfair. It does not recognise the basic concepts of the working of “Patriarchy” and the way men are severely discriminated. Two wrong never make a right. The concept is “affirmative action” is controverial and it has only create more injustices. This is a convenient banner under which anything and everything can be pushed and without any ceiling. Even human rights can be violated under the banner of “Affirmative action” and “Substantiative equality”.

      I would also like to mention that article 14 of the constitution refers to equality before law but all matrimonial laws alimony laws, etc. are against men. Article 15 (c) refers to a provision for women. Note the difference between a provision for women and equality before laws. Inequality of men before laws cannot be passed off as “Affirmative action” under 15 (c). Hence, to not to treat everybody equal before law is a violation of the constitution apart from violation of various human rights conventions.

      We need to undertand this difference. If this discrimination continues under the banners of “Affirmative action” or “Substantive equality”, a time will come when men as a whole would organise and fight back. History would repeat itself and even “Affirmative action” that relates to provisions was never a perfect system, was full of faults and created new problems. Most developed nations have trashed it. So, when it comes to equal treatment before laws, the question of “Affirmative action” does not come into the picture.

    • Rohan says:

      This blog was about the recent Mumbai rape case. I respect and support your initiative to cleanse the media. My objection is about one-sided media ethics that you addressing forgetting the other part. By addressing the other part of media ethics, we don’t, in any way, affect the case or its outcome. Infact, the legal system would be strengthened.

  6. prassoon says:

    I agree with Rohan, nobody is trying to dilute the severity of a crime. But the question is why this hue and cry only when it is against women. Several Lakhs of crime are happening against MEN and nobody cares. I assume it is because crime against women is so rare that people get chance to protest against every single case.

    Shilpa Padhke is absoultely right; The Constitution of India allows the State to give provisions for women and childre. But I would request Shilpa Padhke to read the Constitution little bit further down… 15(5), 16(2), 19(2), 19(3), 19(4), 19(5), 19(6), 25(2), 33, 34, 35(a). Then you will find the key difference between PROVISION and PROVISION BY LAW. Where ever The Constitution gives the provision to MAKE LAW it clearly say so; but in the case of 15(3) its just PROVISION. Hence, all those gender baised laws are absolutely against The Constitution. There is no justification what so ever for making GENDER based laws. May be it is the charity of Male Judges and Male in the law commission and Male in the legislator!!! I’m not against any LAWS as long as it is GENDER neutral. What amazes me is that why people are worried to make gender neutral laws? For example Domestic Violence Act; Its not just WIFE in the household, there are kids parents and husband too, violence can happen to anyone; then why is it applicable only to women and WIFE in particular?

    I’m waiting for Bharath Punarnirman Dal to come into power to ensure The Constitutional rights to every citizens.

    • Rohan says:

      Absolutely Prassson. Unfortunately, the women’s movement which has gone overboard in the last 30 years is misguiding people by quoting the concept of “Affirmative action” which in my opinion is itself a questionable concept, and this concept is being used to pass off anything and everything. If men keep quiet, the day is not far off when their voting rights and property rights will be stripped off in the garb of “Afirmative action”. Its no exaggeration and anything is possible.

  7. Rohan says:

    Regarding Marital Rape Laws:

    http://ratinacage.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/fundie-idiots-at-their-worse/

    Laws presently exist to deal with husbands that abuse their wives however, some would establish aditional law, providing a charge for rape… between husband and wife.

    For 2000yrs, common law upheld the precept that man and wife are one flesh… and marital rape had no standing in law. Scripture declares a man’s wife is his body… his flesh… that they are one. A claim of marital rape had no basis in the law or before God… until now.

    Today, marital rape is being claimed… and a few courts have agreed. The common law is changing too accommodate a new world order. The common law of man has now set a precedent that seeks to overturn thousands of years of law and God’s Biblical precept of one flesh. The effects are far reaching and include more than the physical realm of man.

    This precedent opens the door for a whole host of legal challenges… upsets eons of legal custom, driving a legal wedge between the precept of man and wife… being one flesh. Property law, business law, inheritance law and more will feel the effect of this change.

    Some women will use this legal precept too control their husbands… Holding the treat of rape over them too extract their obedience. Others may leverage better settlements in a divorce. The vindictive ex-wife may find liberty too charge an ex-husband with rape. Beware men of the scorn of a rebuked woman.

    Rape is traditionally based on a woman’s claim, physical proof of intercourse with the accused and opportunity. Because of the nature of the crime, resting in consent… Consent, having no physical evidence… Consent in the law has been based on the woman’s testimony alone. A woman testifies, she did not consent… is all the evidence needed too show no consent under the law. Intercourse is commonly engaged between man and wife… so the component of opportunity and intercourse are a given. All three elements of proof of rape exist in every marriage if the woman chooses too testify she said… no.

    The only defense against rape where intercourse occurred… is to prove consent. How does the husband prove consent? Marriage was accepted as proof of consent in the past. Now that marriage is no longer a defense… proof of consent, how does the husband prove consent? Only with a witness and who has a witness to intercourse with their wife? Therefore, the husband is at the mercy of a wifes testimony.

    The nature of rape and its proof… consent is one reason the law did not allow rape too be brought against the husband. Now a husband’s defense has been taken… marriage being no proof of consent. Unless, the law is revised too require additional evidence, too demonstrate there was no consent… the husband will be convicted. The use of the evidence of an assault is not proof of rape… it is proof of an assault. When and why did it occur? Again, who shall be the witness in the privacy of the bedroom?

    Assault is not rape or proof of rape. Assault carries a much lesser penalty under the law. A woman who is beaten only… may claim rape out of vengeance… Potentially, sending her husband to the gas chamber, if rape carries the death penalty in their state. Assault may not even be related too a rape… it could have taken place before or after the rape… totally separate from the rape.

    Would some women take a beating too send their husbands too prison for life or too their death? Yes, you had better believe it. How will a husband prove consent? She said I could… but your honor he beat me and I said no. No your honor I did not beat her… I do not know when or where she was beaten, your honor. Get the idea?
    He said she said…

    Rape is a very serious crime… it carries a life sentence and the death penalty in many states. Some women… possibly many women, empowered with such leverage, will use it too their advantage. It is nearly impossible for a man too prove he had consent in the privacy of the bedroom. The proof for rape will need too be changed… but this could make proving rape nearly impossible. Pandora’s Box has been opened… can it be closed?

    A whole host questions enter when prosecuting marital rape. Yet, some here think it is a simple matter. Like this inflammatory picture… It causes us to react, rather than to think. The beating taken by the woman pictured is evidence of assault not rape. However, some become enraged, read the narrative… and conclude rape. Who really knows?

    Divorce is filed 70% of the time by women… they often claim abuse as the reason for the divorce. Abuse is used in a divorce… too, establish a basis for custody and a better property settlement. How many will begin too claim rape… in order to get it all. Guess?

    Will women claim rape… too obtain custody rights, support, and a better property settlement in a divorce… or too send an ex-husband to prison or death. What do you think? It is not only a possibility but the guaranteed result of human nature.

    Will man be able to claim rape… it is not reasonable too believe that men will be able to claim rape. Rape laws favor women not men. It is unlikely a court will accept that a husband is raped… Case law certainly shows this to be true.

    If marital rape becomes the accepted law of the land, it will have a wide reaching and potentially devastating impact on marriage… Men will quickly learn that it is better too let women… live on their own.

  8. Rajesh Kumar says:

    Shilpa is right in the sense that under present laws and judicial direction, the name and identity of the accusing women should not be revealed. In the present cisrcumstances, false allegations of rape is incresing like a menace. Therefore, this should be changed on following grounds:
    -The basis of accepting women testimony in the rape laws is that no women will make false allegation of rape beacuse of stigma attached. If the name is not made public, there is no stigma, and hence therefore this reason of believing women testimony does not exist.
    -The stigma, accused of rape faces is more severe than what an alleged victim faces. If name of the accused is made public, why not name of the accuser. If the law is concerned about saving people from stigma in judicial proceeding, none of the accused name should be made public.
    And why only rape accused, even accused of other crime too faces stigma, there name should also not made public.
    The logic of stigma defeats the very concept of public trial and hence should be rejected.
    -When the name of the acused and accuser is made public, various other information is received by the investigating agnecies, which assist in finding out of the truth of the accusation and assist in judicail process. Keeping such name secret is a hindrance to the process of justice.
    In view of these, it is submitted that name of everybody, alleged victim & accused, in a trial should be made public, so that purpose of justice should not be defeated.
    Justice should not only be done- it should have been seen to be done.

    • Rohan says:

      You have given a completely different perspective. That’s another way of looking at the same. Indeed it is true that an accused in a rape case faces far morr stigma than the Accuser and this has to be taken note of. Hence, it is all the more reason that equality is maintained and a fair trial is ensured.

  9. dipti says:

    one thing which is really killing me is that how are people vouching for or rather supporting the victim or the accused.Just because she is a girl does this give her the liberty to do whatever she pleases and then in the end blame everything on the boys.How many of us know what happened that night??How many of us know the girl or the boys in and out??what if these boys are innocent and have got into a mess because of a reason unknown to all of us??Have we even thought what these boys,if innocent,will undergo even if they are proven innocent as the whole world knows their identity,their origin and their faces…can you imagine the humiliation they would have to face……this girl can go back to her country and then she will be spared all the humiliation but who will support these boys???one request which i would like to make is that please know all the facts in and out and then act responsibly….it would not be right on our part to blame anyone even before the trials begin and the final judgement is given.Let us all act as responsibly as possible…..

    • Rohan says:

      National Crime Record Bureau Statistics ******************** ******************** ******** Before Marriage ******************* The proportion of Boys to Girls suicide ratios before marriage is 48:52 . That is almost the same number of boys and girls commit suicides before they are married . In the year 2007 16445 boys committed suicide as compared to 9009 girls . After Marriage ****************** The proportion of Male: Female ratio for suicides in India changes changes to 65:35 . That is about twice the number of married men commit suicide as compared to married women commit suicides. So the suicide rates married men rise 100% more after marriage than before marriage . While the suicide rates of women more or less remain the same before and after marriage . In the year 2007 57593 men committed suicide as compared to 30064 married women . A shocking 100% rise in the rate after the men get married . Categorization that the government does on Suicide cases For women :- ‘Dowry Dispute’ ‘Illegitimate Pregnancy’ ‘Not having Children’ ‘Divorce’ ‘Physical Abuse’ ‘Cancellation/Non-se ttlement of marriage’ ‘Suspected/Illicit Relation’ The categories have been so neatly defined so as to always paint the woman as the victim and the male as the criminal . Now lets take a look how the Male statistics are categorized . . ‘Family Problems’ ‘Causes not known , ‘Other Causes ’ Family problems ******************** 2006 : 12,325 men committed suicide due to family problems as only 8503 women . So Men commit 80% more suicide under the category family problem Cause not known ******************** 2006 : 9243 men committed suicide as compared to 4803 women . So men commit 100% more suicides due to reasons the government does not even know . Other causes( Age group 15 to 44 years ) **************** 2006 :- A shocking 8116 men committed suicides as compared to only 3969 women due to other causes . 150% more suicides by men are under the undefined other causes category . Now lets look at the laws that help these numbers For married women ******************** ***** All suicides after within 7 years of marriage must be investigated as a dowry death . In India the police at the behest of a complaint lodges a dowry death case irrespective of the cause of the suicide . Even a later stage in the trial ( which normally takes decades ) if it is proved that the death was not as a result of dowry , the statistics still remain in place and are used by the Feminist organizations and their counterparts to justify the existence of Biased laws . For Men *********** Suicides of married men are never investigated as domestic violence or harassment cases by wives . They are normally categorized under Family problems , Other Causes or Unknown Causes . The government of India is least interested to know or investigate the phenomenal percentage increase of the suicide rate of married men after marriage .

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