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Women's rights: those which are noticed and those which aren't Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Nandita Saikia, India Oct 6, 2004
Citizen Journalism , Gender Equality   Opinions


I've always been fascinated by the media and women's rights and what the media chooses to report and not to report.

"Today another woman died ...
She died without CNN covering her war.
She died without talk of intelligent bombs
and strategic targets ...
The target was her precious flesh
that was once composed like music
in her mother's body and sung
in the anthem of birth. ..."

An extract from 'Another Woman' by Carol Geneya Kaplan

The other day, I came across an article, "(Not) In The News: Media Culpability in the Continuum of Violence Against Women" by Lucinda Marshall, which dealt with the subject. News today, as the article points out, is a product and those whom it's supposed to keep informed are consumers. Newspapers, as most of us cannot fail to notice, have page three content right from page one onwards and devote very little of their space to hard news.

In "Lulling us into submission - Advertising, Core Truths, And The Great Electronic Tranquilliser," Media Lens points out, "The 'quality press' doesn't like to talk too openly about the fact that it depends for 75% of its revenue on corporate advertising. Corporations, after all, are strictly hierarchical, undemocratic institutions motivated by limitless greed--it's hard to reconcile their needs with democracy, human rights and the public's right to know."

And that, I suppose, is the bottom line: nobody in the corporate world really wants to talk about human rights, let alone women's rights. A few sensational stories here and there keep life interesting--remember the O. J. Simpson trial and how watching it turned into everybody's favourite way to waste time?

And more recently, here in India, how the media spent endless amounts of air time, not to mention column space, talking about the Gudiya-Taufeeq-Arif triangle completely forgetting that there were real people involved who weren't playing parts written by an imaginative scriptwriter in a soap opera. The need to sensationalise news and have a field day with what was so obviously a personal tragedy for someone else is something that completely escapes me.

I think that the lady who wrote the Princess, Daughters of Arabia and Desert Royal books with Jean Sasson was right when she said, if I remember correctly, of there being little chance of international pressure helping to improve the lives of women since, not controlling oil or anything else, their lives are of no real interest to foreign governments who have rarely, if ever, done anything substantial to advocate their cause. And that is where, and why, to my mind, the Fourth Estate should step in--but of course it doesn't.

Human rights today isn't news and it isn't on any government's agenda unless it has to do with sex. As Nina Shapiro points out in The New Abolitionists, "Freeing 'sex slaves' is now at the top of the human rights agenda, thanks to Christian evangelicals, the Bush administration, and two former Washington politicians, Linda Smith and John Miller." The anti-trafficking crusade tends to sidetrack almost every other issue and turn what is real suffering for many people into soft porn for almost everyone else.

Women's rights need to stop being trivialised and be looked at more compassionately and also, more comprehensively. It isn't all about prostitution and sex slavery. It's about being able to live life with the same kind of respect that men take for granted.



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Writer Profile
Nandita Saikia

Nandita Saikia has had two books published: one on Business Communication and the other on Human Rights. She has has contributed to a number of publications on a wide range of subjects although her primary interests are domestic violence and choice inhibition.

Ricky | Oct 8th, 2004
You are right; we should look at the whole picture and not just individual pieces.

Ranbir Singh Dahiya | Nov 1st, 2004
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