ISLAMABAD, June 5: Portrayal of women as ‘erotic objects’ in cinema and television commercials was criticised at a seminar here on Thursday as exploitation that was distorting women’s image in society and promoting extremism among the more conservative people.
The role of the media in forming opinion and influencing attitudes was discussed by the speakers who thought a majority of the people could not absorb the excessive exposure of women in all kinds of advertisements and it was leading to adverse emotional reactions particularly among the young.
The seminar was organised on the occasion of the launching of Munsalik, a project of Rozan, an NGO which works on issues related to psychological health, violence against women and children, and the psychological and reproductive health of adolescents.
The project will support media on issues related to Violence against Women and children.
Ghazi Salahuddin, a leading columnist, highlighted the ways in which cases of violence against women were reported in media. He was of the view that reporting in the vernacular press was insensitive and often breached the confidentiality that the victims needed.
Absar Alam, another journalist, described how women had been turned into commercial commodities to sell goods of all kinds. In a very engaging presentation, he compared different ads having one or more women as vendors of products that needed no feminine background.
Feryal Gauhar expressed her views on the portrayal of women in cinema. She screened pictures from Urdu, Punjabi and Pushto language movies that had no relationship with reality. She was being depicted as an object of sexual pleasure for men who in their turn were being portrayed as gun-totting savages.
After the panel discussion, the floor was opened for the audience to share in the discussion.
Harris Khalique, Chief Executive SPO, moderated the session. Problems being faced by regional journalists were also highlighted who did not have all the modern facilities their work demands them to have.
Tahira Abdullah, human rights activist, asserted that the role of woman was reduced to stereotyped gender roles and there was a need to think beyond that.
Coordinator of the project, Shabana Arif, told the audience how patriarchal values undermined the importance of women and assigned her a secondary status. She said that media’s portrayal of woman was often not positive because of the existing stereotypes in the society.
In a case of violence against women, the confidentiality of the survivor was ignored and negative remarks were often attributed to her, she said. She explained how Munsalik envisioned undoing of such injustices through its area of work by conducting workshops with concerned reporters, photographers, upcoming journalists, and media houses.
Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman lauded the role of Rozan for touching upon the sensitive issues.
She admitted the Ministry of Women Development did not have enough funds to under-take projects affecting gender issues.
Recalling her years as a journalist, she narrated how every story used to have a woman in the background even if the story was not related to a woman. She intended to strengthen the gender crime cell within the ministry and informed that three bills aimed at protecting women’s rights had been forwarded to the Law Ministry.
Earlier, Maria Rashid, Rozan’s co-director, emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between media and the NGO’s. She appreciated that the media had in the past few years paid attention to women’s issues which was a welcome sign.