Consultation on Media’s coverage of sexual violence and rape against women and Children in India

7 day of march
December 28, 2018
A march for dignity, support
January 7, 2019

Date: 5th January, 2019 l Time: 3.30 PM l Place: Hyderabad Press Club, Somajiguda, Hyderabad

The Dignity March aimed at ending victim shaming and discrimination against survivors of rape and sexual assault took off on December 20th, from Somaiya Grounds Sion, Mumbai with an impressive participation of women, children, celebs and volunteers. Initiated and powered by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan along with several like-minded organisations, the sixty-five-day national march will see survivors and other stakeholders travel 10,000 KM in 200 districts of 24 States/UTs in India, culminating on 22nd February 2019 in Delhi. In recent times and especially after the 2012 Delhi rape case the media has increased the coverage of rape and sexual assault bringing the issue into the mainstream and helping in asserting influence and pressure on governments to take action. The media constitutes a key arena in which rape is defined, shaping perceptions about how sexual violence is viewed in the society and who is held accountable and what assumptions are being conveyed to the audiences about the victims and the perpetrators. A consultation between media practitioners, activists and survivors of rape and sexual assault is being organized in Hyderabad to discuss the crucial role of media in ending the stigmatization, blaming and shaming of survivors of rape and sexual violence. The main objective of the consultation is to facilitate an open discussion between media professionals and survivors on issues of privacy and confidentiality; consistency and quality of coverage and arrive at some best practices that are informed by the experiences of the survivors and the challenges of the journalists. Main areas for discussion: Privacy and confidentiality: As per Supreme Court guidelines as well as Section 228A of the IPC prohibits publishing the name of the victim/survivor in rape cases.In some circumstances, the law allows for disclosing the name of a rape victim. Names can be revealed in specific cases if the concerned police officers issue such a written order, or if the survivor states in writing that her identity can be revealed. What can be the best practices around this issue, especially when survivors want to claim their identity? Sexualizing the incident:A research study conducted by media monitoring organisation, The Hoot, points out that majority of time while reporting on rape and violence against women, the media focuses on the details of the incidence - especially if the nature of the crime is graphic - rather than place it within a wider context of why and who committed the crime. Reinforcing negative stereotypes: Many media reports provide irrelevant details about the rape survivors - such as what she was doing before or after, where she works and where she hails from - that is simply not relevant to the case is indirect victim-blaming. This kind of coverage creates negative stereotypes of certain women in the public and dilutes the intensity of rape or violence as a crime. It instead in a way justifies violence or at the least puts the onus on the girl and her behavior making the ―she was asking for itargument stronger. It also reveals the bias of the reporter himself/herself. Lack of context/commentary and follow up: Media monitoring reports of sexual violence have found that commentary around the details of the case is also missing in most reports. For example, there is no commentary on the fact that in most number of cases the perpetrator was known to the survivor, and in some, was infact related. As a result, there is a continued perception among the public that rape is mostly inflicted by strangers and one has to keep a look-out outside of the family and neighborhood - which is false information. More responsible and wholesome treatment by the press could dispel various myths, including about the survivor, location of the assault, and the survivor's relationship with her assailant. It is also found that apart from high profile cases which are usually of people from privileged class and caste, there is hardly coverage involving cases of follow up survivors from lower income, Dalit and minority sections. Absence of positive stories: Every day in India there are many people from society, police, administration and politics who do the right thing and help bring justice closer to survivors of rape and sexual assault. There is almost no reporting on such positive stories, which can help incentivize appropriate response and motivate the public on right actions. International media monitoring reports offer six guidelines for media reporting on gender-based violence which could be useful for media professionals to consider while preparing their pitch for rape reporting. These are detailed as follows: 1. Report the social context in which male perpetrated violence against women and children occurs; 2. Use correct language and terminology; 3. Avoid blaming the victim; 4. Avoid offering excuses for men‘s violence; 5. Consider how source selection shapes the story; and 6. Provide women with information on where to seek help. Special Invitees for the event are: Smt. Shanta Sinha, Ex-Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of India Shri. Allam Narayana, Chairman, Press Academy, Telangana. Shri. Ravi Mishra, Freelance Journalist for New York Times. Smt. K. Satyavati, Bhumika Women’s Collective Shri Ashif Shaikh, Convenor, Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan Ms. Lalita, Survivor leader, Madhya Pradesh Ms. Halli bai, Survivor leader, Uttar Pradesh Ms. Yashoda, Survivor Leader, Maharashtra For further information, please contact: 9848790444 (P.Naveen Kumar)

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Expected Outcomes:

  • 1. Create an environment to end victim shaming in 24 states and 200 districts.
  • 2. More than 50,000 survivors of rape and sexual abuse feel motivated and confident to continue their fight to claim justice, relief and rehabilitation.
  • 3. Create a network of support and solidarity between victims, families, stakeholders.
  • 4. Public initiatives for justice and rehabilitation for survivors.
  • 5. Reform for a comprehensive socio-medico-legal relief and rehabilitation of Survivors’ in the policies.

Key strategies:

  • 1. Building a National Network of Survivors, family members and other stakeholders across 200 districts and 24 states/UTs and 200 districts across the country.
  • 2. Triggering Dialogue with the Socio-Medico-Legal support system, to enhance their capacity to deal with issues of rape and sexual violence.
  • 3. Policy Engagement at local, state and national level for effective implementation of protocols, improved budget allocation and developing and monitoring the system towards a comprehensive approach to address sexual violence against women and children.
  • 4. Public Engagement by getting the attention of media to do comprehensive reportage of issues related to rape and sexual violence.

Activities:

  • 1. Meetings with the survivors, their families and the larger community: To trigger conversations around rape, sexual violence, child sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking meetings will be conducted with the survivors, their families and the larger community in 200 districts across the country.
  • 2. State-level stakeholders meetings: 24 state-level meetings will be held with different stakeholders to sensitize them on issue of rape and sexual violence. These will culminate in a set of recommendations for better implementation and monitoring of law and policies.
  • 3. Awareness and sensitization programmes: To be held in different locations with students, lawyers and medical professionals highlighting the challenges and gaps they face daily and dealing with issue of rape and sexual violence.
  • 4. Survivors’ Convention at the State-level: Convention of survivors will be organised to discuss patterns in cases related to violence against women and children and to provide immediate legal assistance and guidance.
  • 5. Resource material: Distribution of resource material targeted at different stakeholders to help deal with issue of violence against women and children. The aim is to spread awareness and equip different stakeholders with updated protocols, guidelines, government policies, law and schemes, toll free helpline numbers and short videos and posters talking about their roles and responsibility in dealing with case of rape and sexual violence.