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Reporting crime against women

Syed Mazhar Hasnain

SHOWCASING THE APPEARANCE of women seems to be the focal point in; not all but most of the newspapers of Pakistan. Showering glamorous and at times sexually provocative images of women in human interest sections of the papers shows the imprudence of the editors on coverage.

Because of that practice you can hardly differentiate between ‘fashion’ and the ‘women’ sections. Mistakenly our newspapers are giving women the lead on fashion arena. But the situation is drastically different when it comes to reporting crime news related to women. The happy-go-lucky image of Pakistani women does not reflect the real state of affairs in regards to fair sex.

Despite of having accepted the charter of UN; Pakistani women in general are deprived of civil rights. Women in the rural areas of Pakistan, which spreads over 67% of the country, are the most vulnerable to ill treatment by male members of the society. They suffer highly from domestic violence, unfavorable societal norms, and traditions, local customs and so on. Crime, like ‘honour killing’is a stigmatic practice, tarnishing the image of Pakistan as a civilized society. Media coverage throughout the world reflects the rate of crime against women in respective societies. Unfortunately in Pakistan, the rate of crime against women is quite high. But very few of them are reported on media scene. The comparative statistics regarding women’s rights violation and related media coverage issued by Women’s Rights Activists and other Human Rights Watch Groups, show grievances. Media is not seemed to be up to the mark on covering and highlighting the issue of women’s rights violation.

The finding of a research of four national dailies of Pakistan, conducted by the students of Mass Communication Department, University of Karachi reveals that the local newspapers are giving less preference to the issue of “Crimes against Women in Pakistan”. The ratio of the covered space given to “Crimes against Women in Pakistan”
is far less (0.48) as opposed to the space given to the advertisement (15.33). It exposes grievance on media’s part; as the report of the government’s own Commission of Inquiry for Women states that only the estimation of the cases of domestic violence against women ranges from 65 to 70 %.

The findings do not support the popular view that English newspapers give more preference to the coverage on this issue. When it comes to the accumulative average (50.44 Urdu and 49.56 English) the Urdu newspapers go a bit higher.

The research findings are also congruent to the view that newspaper organisations have become corporate oriented. The issue of public concerns seems to be compromised with the space given to the advertisements, which is basically a revenue generation tool, The highest percentage of the ads is significantly higher (15.33%) as opposed to the space (0.48%) given to the issue. The largest space given to ads (70.69 %) has been found in the papers, which is reported to have the least coverage on the issue.

On the other end, the report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Aug, 1999) states ‘Women in Pakistan face the threat of multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence by family members, strangers, and state agents; domestic abuse, including spousal murder and being burned, disfigured with acid, beaten, And threatened; ritual honour killings (Karo Kari) and custodial abuse and torture. The worst victims were women of the poor and middle classes. Their lack of resources made them the primary target of the police and the criminals It also rendered them more vulnerable to oppressive customs and mores inside homes and outside”.

The report of the government’s own Commission of Inquiry for Women, states that only the estimation of the cases of domestic violence against women though, newspapers are not wholly responsible to bring the issue to light. There are several other factors hampering the issues to be highlighted. The close set-up and low literacy rate of Pakistani society do contribute in this situation.
Feudal lords and masses suppress reporting things in which any humiliation in regards to women is involved. There are number of reasons where victims do not want to be reported on media because afterwards the whole family of the victim has to bear the social criticism and harassment.

But still in male dominant and mal-administrative societies, like ours, we tend to rely on media for projecting such issues. It is the duty of our newspapers to play a positive role in society and report the truth.

Source: The Nation

Date:4/24/2005

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