The discourse around the pandemic scale of gender-based violence has been gaining momentum all over the world, and especially in India. The global outcry and media attention after the 2012 gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi led to a renewed nationwide interest in the safety of girls and women in India. The media was quick to follow – a study of 4 leading English language daily newspapers in India revealed a huge spike in rape coverage in India during the 2012 Delhi gang-rape and 4 times as much rape reportage in the 39 months following it. (Shorenstein) The increased visibility of rape and sexual violence led to reported cases of rape jumping by a whopping 26% in 2013. (Wire)
But does increased media attention translate to a greater sensitivity in understanding rape, and creating a society that centres the rights of women and girls? The language that the media chooses to employ while reporting rape and sexual violence can heavily influence the way its audience views gender-based violence. It can determine whether an incident of rape is viewed in a way that reproduces victim blaming narratives and rape culture, or in a way that affirms the agency of women and girls, and their right to safety and freedom from gender-based violence.
This toolkit has been designed with the objective of providing media platforms and professionals a handy guide when it comes to reporting gender-based violence. The language employed by the media in reporting gender-based violence is crucial in furthering a society that is more informed and sensitive to survivors. Unfortunately, the reality is such that many media practices tend to perpetuate patriarchal mindsets and rape culture.
“A Closer Look at Statistics on Sexual Violence in India.” The Wire, thewire.in/society/a-closer-look-at-statistics-on-sexual-violence-in-india.
International Affairs. “Rape Culture in India: The Role of the English-Language Press.” Shorenstein Center, 6 Jan. 2017, shorensteincenter.org/rape-culture-india-english-language-press/.
This toolkit provides an overview of the nature of rape reportage in India, and lists a number of ways in which problematic media practices can be replaced with sensitive and affirming methods that uphold the rights and dignity of survivors of sexual violence.