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05 March, 2015

Western media's doublethink on crimes against women

Reproduced below (in italics) is a message I received today from a former media colleague, who is now working abroad, in the context of the controversy generated by the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’:

Look at it from the perspective of global media. Why wouldn't the BBC do a similar interview with a British rapist? One of these men could be fitting subject:
Or they wouldn't have to go far for this:

They could go the US and do an interview with a college rapist. The most dangerous place for a woman is not the streets of Delhi, but US college campuses. One in five women students are raped during their college career.

When US media -- and activists -- denounce India as a society of violence towards women, what they are trying to do is divert attention away from the US situation to India (and make themselves feel better by venting against Indians). After all, the college rapists are not hoodlums from the ghettos, but the brothers, sons, nephews and cousins of the media and social elite and their friends and house guests. Would they, in any case, want to taint with a broad brush the student population made up of people like their own.

Street harassment of women is quite widespread in the US, too.
But does the western media treat it the way they do harassment in India?

And US politicians? Todd Aiken, a US Congressman said there are legitimate rapes.

Richard Mourdock, a Republican Senate candidate, said that rape and rape-induced pregnancies are part of God's (I presume he means the Abrahamic God) plan.

(No, they didn't belong to an Indian Khap Panchayat but were members of a mainstream US party -- not even on the fringe, but with wide party base.)

Indian media and civil society have done an excellent job of covering and violence against women in their society. Can that be said of the US media and civil society -- if you compare them to their attitudes towards similar problems in the US and in India, and how they and Indian media cover and condemn the issues in their respective countries.

When was the last time an Indian newspaper wrote a caustic editorial on rapes on US campuses or British rapes of children?

I am not denying the problems and in no way suggesting that they be hushed up -- the very active Indian media and civil society do an excellent job. I can't but notice, though, that western media is just trying to avoid criticizing their own by turning attention away from them. They don't need to raise conscience on this, when Indian society is doing a better job.

I am fully in agreement with my friend’s assessment that the Indian media has a better record of addressing the issue of crimes against women than its western counterparts. That, however, should not blind us to the fact Indian society is far more impervious to the idea of gender equality than western societies.

I have no hesitation to admit that, in my judgment, there is a good side to western media intrusions like ‘India’s Daughter’, whatever their motive. It is that they often handle the issue more professionally than our media.

As for the western media’s tendency to ignore similar developments in their own countries, the answer is to develop non-western international media institutions which will, hopefully, redress the imbalance. 

The chart below shows that the national outrage of December 2012 did not lead to a fall in the incidence of sex crimes in Delhi. On the contrary it shot up. 

Obviously we needed to be reminded of that horrendous crime, and the unchanged mindset of the criminals and their political and legal defenders. The BBC documentary has done that.  

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