End Violence Against Women25 Nov, 2015
Today marks, International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls. Globally, Violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious – and the most tolerated – human rights violations. Female journalists often face threats and violence for simply doing their jobs, with one in five female media workers experiencing physical violence related to their work. In the Asia-Pacific region, one in five journalists have witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace, while 40% of female media workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
We spoke to female journalists across South Asia, and asked them to tell us about their experiences and what types of strategies they were using to combat the violence.
Divya Rajagopal is a journalist with the Economic Times based in Mumbai, India. She said:
The situation for most women who chose to express their opinion about issues of politics/sports/movies in short anything they say, gets them in trouble. As a woman journalist, whenever we comment on matters of religion or a particular political party the response at times is crude and in extreme circumstances are met with violent response. Whore, Bitch, Prostitute, are common abuses that are hurled on women journalists. Once i made a comment on a religious practice of Hindus (not in the capacity of a journalist) I was threatened with rape and murder. Some folks on twitter said they found the place where I stayed and threatened to “teach me a lesson” I was honestly very scared, and since at that time I was living alone I had to leave my place and shift to a friend’s house for few days. As a journalist like me many other female reporters get attacked with the most abusive language on social media platforms when we share our views or sometimes stories that are not palatable to the establishment. These cannot be called as trolling, they are plain harassment.
I think it is high time that news organisations and journalists unions should come together to condemn online harassment against reporters.
Neha Dixit is an independent journalists in India. She said:
When one writes about mass rapes of women in a sectarian violence, they say you should be rewarded the same way. Sometimes you are abused for writing about the miseries of Muslim women and they say ISIS is paying you to do it. Sometimes, they say that you are polluting the society by advocating the rights of a young girl to choose her life partner defying traditional, patriarchal norms. And for that you need to be beaten black and blue on the city square.
When you criticize politicians for justifying rape and making misogynist, sexist comments, they say you should be ‘violated’ with bamboo poles. When you criticize the government for their anti-poor policy, you are threatened with rape. When you talk about the rising inflation, they call you a slut with rising rates. When you right about labour law violations, they say I should not be bothered because I don’t qualify under that category.
One wakes up with these messages and notifications every single day. It has been a few years now. These threats-some offline and a majority of them online through social media have become a part of life now. So much so that if one does not learn how to deal with it, one cannot exist. So much so that they seem grotesquely amusing to me, now. Because no one can stop them, no one stops them-the social media platforms, the governments, the internet. Because all a patriarchal, misogynist society knows is to threaten an assertive, independent woman with sexual violence to shut her up. The online reflects the offline attitude. And till that changes, none of this will.
Priyanka Borpujari is an independent journalist based in India. She said:
Sometimes it is the simple fact of being a woman that can be a blessing or a curse while reporting from the ground. I have entered into kitchens and encountered stories of women that never crossed my urban mind. At the same time, I have gone into police camps and have been received with utmost respect, simply because I am a woman. Yet, this does not ignore the dirty reality that being a woman, I have to portray myself as the “weaker one who has battled all odds” to gain entry into certain spaces, especially after sundown.
Five years ago, I was attacked by the police in central India for my reportage; even today I shudder when I come across situations where protests draw in a large number of armed personnel. It makes me nervous and I’m constantly weighing in the escape routes, if the situation turns ugly. That’s a handicap to my journalism at the moment, and that’s the larger issue of how we ignore our own safety and well-being.
Finally, being an independent journalist, it is a constant cause of worry when we are not paid in time and when editors choose to ignore our realities when we set out to report from a distant region. How are we supposed to experience the idea of free speech when we feel shackled by the market constraints and editors who wouldn’t have our back, if and when we are in danger? We live and work in India: a volatile country where any argument, especially in recent times, have become spaces of conflict. At such times, it isn’t silly to feel deserving of mechanisms and systems that could ensure our safety, especially when we lance out to pursue journalism independently.
For more information on the IFJ and International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls click here.