28 April 2017 | Last updated 07:00 PM

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Role of media is absolutely crucial
Gunratna Sontakke | Sunday, 8 January 2017 AT 01:49 PM IST
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Is today's media playing the right role?  It must play a pivotal role in stopping injustices to women. 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.

News coverage of violence against women has often been sensational, exploitative and lacking in serious analysis of the incidence. The media has a duty to report accurately on acts of violence against women. Although some in the media are to be commended for their efforts to reflect sensitive, diverse and egalitarian images, others in the media still incorporate images that convey destructive messages. Yet, women's bodies are used as objects to sell products.

Let’s take a look at a study conducted on factors contributing to violence against women in America and the findings of the study are applicable to Indian society also. 

Although sexual assault is understood as an act of violence which reflects the unequal power between men and women, many theorists also emphasise cultural and social factors that contribute to a society that condones sexual assault and violence against women. For example, many argue that sexual assault is connected to the desensitisation that occurs through the portrayal of violence in the media and popular culture.

A study showed that 52 men experienced a number of changes after being exposed to one extremely violent film a day for five days. After this exposure, men found the violence less anxiety-provoking and depressing; they evaluated the injury experienced by female victims of sexual assault as less significant and were less able to empathise with real victims. Images of masculinity and femininity in the media also encourage the association of masculinity with violence, dominance and power. (Myriam Miedzian, How Rape is Encouraged in American Boys, in Transforming a Rape Culture (Emilie Buchwald et al, 1993)).

Theorists have also argued that the media contributes to the perpetuation of sexual assault because it commodifies women's bodies. One theorist argues that we live in a culture that rarely discusses sex as anything other than a commodity. Instead, youths, particularly young men, are bombarded by a culture that sexualises commodities and commodifies women's sexuality.

The result of this is two-fold:  First, the commodification of women's sexuality teaches that sex is something to be consumed and to which men are entitled. Second, because sex is something that can be bought and sold, taking it by force is theft, not a violation. 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 programmes on this issue. Media should also project the means to combat violence.

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