Senior journalists and women rights activists chided the media for reporting rape cases like any ordinary crime, at the launching ceremony of a report on the media’s role in sex crimes.
Tasneem Ahmar, director of Uks, Dr Salman Tariq, gender advisor at United Nations, Huma Khawar, senior journalist, Quatrina Hosain, director of current affairs at Express News and Tahira Abdullah, a well known rights activist, were speaking on Monday at the launching ceremony of a report titled ‘How rape is covered by the media in Pakistan’. The report has been compiled by Uks Research Centre, Islamabad in collaboration with the Global Fund for Women.
The document attempts to view how women of Pakistan, who confront rampant injustice in the face of brutal crimes committed against them, are treated by the “omnipresent” eyes of our society- the media. Despite efforts made by rights-based organisations and the tall claims of successive governments, says the report, women continue to face violence on a daily basis. Quoting from a recent Human Rights Watch report, it says that an estimated 90 per cent of women in the country are victims of domestic abuse. Aurat Foundation, however, claims that domestic violence exists in one out of every three households.
Painting a rather bleak picture, the report further states that women are not safe anywhere, including their homes, the streets, their workplaces and even in spaces which have been sworn to offer them protection.”In a patriarchal, male-dominated society like Pakistan, where women are treated as a man’s property, rape has become a form of not just violence against women but also revenge against men,” claims the report.
Speaking on the occasion, Ahmar said cases of rape receive the most sensationalised coverage in the country, where the media often forgets that an ethical code exists and becomes totally blind to any ethical guidelines. In such reports, she said, the spot-light is on the victim while the culprit/s is almost always completely ignored. This gives the impression that the victim herself bears responsibility for the entire episode.
“Such reports create a sense of fear among parents and force them to forbid their daughters from going out, even to school,” she said, adding that, “The effort has been made not to point fingers at the media, or alienate it, but is an attempt to make it a powerful ally in the struggle to ensure zero tolerance against gender-based violence in our society.”
Hosain was of the opinion that rape cases are “politicized” when they are expounded by the country’s media. She asked why the names and other details of rape victims are almost always highlighted in the media and instead of the profiles of the accused.
“Rape is not a crime of sex but a crime of violence, power and abuse,” she said.
Khawar suggested that reporters should be trained for handling such cases and taught appropriate terms. Commenting on notions of honour and their link with violence against women, Abdullah said that the power of feudal lords or tribal chieftains lies in the bodies of “their” females.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2011.