Media role lauded in creating awareness: Violence against women
KARACHI- Speakers at a seminar on November 25, 2002 commended 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.
The seminar, “Media’s Role in Combating Violence Against Women”, was organized by the Pakistan Press Foundation.
They said 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.
Rashida Patel, president Pakistan Women Law Association (PAWLA), said media had been exhibiting a great deal of violence, but the problem arose because the morals and ethics of a particular incident were underemphasized and the acts of violence were overemphasized. She said media should also project the means to combat violence.
An important change has been made in the Family Law Courts Act 1964 and the family court judges have been given the powers of first-class judicial magistrates to try offences between spouses, she added.
She acknowledged media’s role in bringing forth many cases of rape, karo-kari and violence against women, especially in the rural areas. The press, she said, also has exposed the illegal and cruel attitude of jirgas and it should continue and expand this nature of work.
She stated that due to slow judicial process, people did not get follow-up information, such as whether the accused were convicted or not. The media has an advantage of having a network of reporters even in remote areas which are inaccessible to NGOs.
Ms Patel suggested that media should share information with NGOs who also work to combat violence against women.
Dr Fouzia Jaffery, professor of Mass Communication at the University of Karachi, said media held a mirror that exposed the ills of society. Though cases of violence against women have always existed, the media has played an important role in taking up the issues, she remarked.
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, she pointed out.
There are no data available to prove that depiction of violence in the media increases violence, Ms Jaffery observed.
Beena Sarwar, a TV producer, 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.
She said media could further help combat gender-based violence by altering the tone of reporting, such as honour killings needed to be referred to as “so-called honour killing” and there should not be a hint of justifying murders, committed in the name of so-called honour and identification, such as names and photographs, should not be revealed unless with the victim’s approval, she suggested.
Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, president Amnesty International said media had helped carry out Amnesty’s work in promoting human rights, but still many cases were not reported. He suggested that the losses should be compensated and the defenders of victims should be provided security, while media should act as a pressure group against these injustices.
Samina Ishaque, director PPF, said there were reports almost every day about vicious crimes against women, such as gang-rape, honour-killings, murders for suspected adultery, disfigurement by acid throwing, trading of women, public stripping and humiliation.
She said growing media coverage of various forms of violence against women had helped raise the much-needed social consciousness and it had created resistance to these crimes.