Network of Women in Media, India Calls for More Sensitive Coverage of Violence against Women 

The Network of Women in Media, India, celebrating its 10th anniversary at a national convention attended by

about 80 media women from across the country, discussed various aspects of the theme, ‘Women, Violence
and the Media,’ over a weekend meeting in Mumbai (1-3 February 2013). A public
meeting on 2 February 2013 focussed on how the news media can better report
issues of women, violence and public space.

Taking note of the public outrage over, and media coverage of, the recent
brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi, the NWMI expresses
grave concern over the increasing incidence of violence against girls and women
all across India, in public as well as private spaces.  As women journalists we believe it is
important to recognise that the Delhi case exposed only the tip of the iceberg
of gender violence, much of which does not receive adequate media or public

We appreciate the fact that the media responded to the gang-rape in Delhi and
the public outcry that followed with prominent and largely sympathetic

However, we recognise that media coverage is often a double-edged
sword.  On the positive side, it
increases public awareness about such crimes and puts pressure on the
authorities to take action. On the negative side, incessant coverage of certain
cases, particularly sensationalised cases of sexual violence, can obscure the
widespread prevalence of many different forms of daily violence against women
all over the country.  Unless it is
balanced and sensitively handled, such coverage can also be voyeuristic and
titillating;  it can increase the sense
of vulnerability and insecurity among girls and women (including survivors of
such violence), and lead to restrictions on their freedom and rights.

In addition, some of the media coverage in the immediate aftermath of the
gang-rape in Delhi provoked and amplified strident calls for harsher
punishments for such crimes – capital punishment, chemical castration, and so
on – despite the fact that most women’s groups with long experience in dealing
with gender violence have consistently cautioned against such kneejerk
reactions that could worsen the situation.

We recall the thousands of girls and women all over the country who have been
physically, sexually, psychologically abused and injured or killed. As
journalists we urge the media to pay due attention to sexual violence perpetrated
on Dalits and Adivasis, as well as women in militarised zones, where security
forces are granted impunity by law.

We renew our commitment to working towards ensuring that media coverage of
violence against women is more sensitive and nuanced, enabling victims and
survivors to get justice in an environment where women feel safe and can
exercise their right to equal citizenship.

The Network of Women in
Media, India
Mumbai, 3 February 2013