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On 17th September 2019, FII Campaign Manager Asmita Ghosh gave a seminar on the #GBVinMedia toolkit to postgraduate students of journalism at the University of Madras.

If you are unacquainted with the toolkit, here’s a quick brief on what it’s about. The #GBVinMedia toolkit is a media ethics toolkit for media professionals to employ ethical journalism when reporting on gender-based violence. It was designed with the objective of providing media platforms and professionals a handy guide to report 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. This toolkit provides an overview of the nature of rape reportage in English language media 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.

The toolkit was initially launched in Delhi on 4 July 2019, and also presented at Newslaundry’s media conference ‘The Media Rumble’ on 3rd August 2019. The toolkit was then brought to Mumbai with the support of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). In Mumbai, we also conducted seminars in two universities in the city to mass media, journalism, and women’s studies students. Next, the toolkit was launched in Kolkata with the support of Sruthi Disability Rights Centre. While we have not yet launched the toolkit in Chennai, we had the opportunity to disseminate its recommendations to a postgraduate class of journalism major students.

The workshop took place for about one hour, where Asmita spoke about common pitfalls of gender-based violence reportage in English print media. Through qualitative examples, she delved into the way that survivors of gender-based violence are represented in mainstream media. For instance, the way extraneous details about survivors are highlighted in media reports about rape, including their relationship status, clothes or the fact that they had been drinking, leading to a victim-blaming mindset.

In contrast, reports are often sympathetic to perpetrators, especially when they come from a high standing in society, or when they commit crimes “of passion”. In this vein, the use of the term “jilted lovers” and “roadside Romeo” was discussed in the way in which they minimised or justified crimes of sexual abuse and harassment. The perpetrator is also often entirely missing from headlines about sexual violence, underscoring the point that gender-based violence is a “woman’s issue”, with men not being held accountable for their actions.

The workshop wrapped up with an engaging discussion between audience members and the team. The FII team is looking to present this toolkit in seminars, conferences and workshops in media schools and media houses across India, in a bid to drive the movement for gender-sensitive journalism forward. If you would like to get in touch, please email asmita@feminisminindia.com to discuss collaborations.

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