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CULTURE-HERITAGE

Mass Media And The Digital Wave of Women’s Movement

There should be an equal pay scale for female media workers and development programs.

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(This article belongs to League of India’s ‘Readers’ Opinions‘ Initiative)

The century-long movement of women’s rights and empowerment achieve another lever after the rise of new media in the eve of globalization.

The portrayal of women in media has changed over time and has had both positive and negative impact on the image and position of women. Some mediums such as documentaries, radio, political and social content on TV, print news, digital platforms, etc. have played an essential role in ensuring a healthy public discourse on gender, dissemination of information, positive stories of women empowerment, reporting on achievements and progress of women in society.


They inform and educate society on Issues of gender and gender sensitization. Ad content and portrayal of women in cinema are also changing by giving women lead roles, positive depiction of women, and breaking gender stereotypes.

Positive stereotypes help women to become assertive, independent, and tackle gender abuse and discrimination. More brands and production houses utilize successful, career-oriented women roles, and they are mostly shown as strong and independent persons, instead of being vilified.

However, they have a long way to go. Negative stereotypes of women in media such as submissive, timid, and ultra-modern women portrayals influence how women are perceived by society. It prevents women’s abilities by limiting their choices and opportunities, which directly and indirectly causes an increase in gender and sexual violence.


Nowadays, issues related to women are not discussed in media widely. Only sensational news about women is given extensive coverage, while essential discourses and discussions on women related issues never occur.

According to a survey by ‘Media Cloud,’ rape receives maximum media coverage. Other social issues related to women are largely ignored.

The media does not offer any serious analysis of economic conditions and inter-relationships of social issues. Rape, dowry deaths, and other serious violence against women are framed as criminal occurrences rather than the outcomes of genital mutilation and inequality.

Also, rape, child marriages, domestic violence are covered by the media if they are high-profile and involve statements from politicians or elite class personalities. Feature movies and television soap operas, still portray women in stereotypical roles as inferior, subordinate, and submissive gender. It is justified by the producers as the demand of the masses.

Nevertheless, these depictions influence how women are perceived and treated in society. Women are also given continuously decorative roles or as domestic caregivers of family, reinforcing the gender dynamics in the family system. These electronic media, including news channels, can play a crucial role in the reconstruction of women’s image, shaping gender norms, socio-cultural values, and perceptions.


However, mostly sensational news such as rape and violence against women is given the spotlight, While more severe women issues are not taken up. Sexual objectification and commodification of women are prevalent in movies and advertisements. Advertisements depict their version of women’s perfection – slim, fair complexioned, glamorous, which sets a bad precedent among adolescents and young women. Advertisements, especially for home, kitchen, jewellery, sanitation, and hygiene products, mirror the gendered view of society. Those ads depict women mostly as home-makers, concerned only with maintaining their houses, beauty, and taking care of their families.

Frontliners of women’s movements in India have been instrumental in highlighting the sexist attitude in advertisements.

Though there have been some changes in the way corporates and product companies depict women, the tendency has always been towards reinforcing traditional regressive gender roles.

The fashion and cosmetics industry also plays a negative role in the gender discrimination of women. Its only women who are expected to maintain impossible standards of physical perfection and body shape.

Objectification of women’s bodies is subtly promoted by beauty pageants and the fashion industry that curtails women’s equality. Women are treated as trophies, celebrated for how they look, instead of intelligence, skill, character, and their contribution.

There have been women’s rights movements in the US and around the world against beauty pageants and the stereotypes they reinforce.

The advent of the internet and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. has broadened the social space for women to raise their issues, reach out, network and collaborate for their common causes. Women blogging, NGO websites, and women platforms have advanced the empowerment of women through technology.

There is also a gender digital divide creating unequal spaces in digital media. Some of the reasons for this gender gap are lack of textual literacy, the wage gap, lack of context in local languages, gender division of labour causing time constraints for women, etc.

According to Women’s Rights Online Network, women are 50% less likely to access the internet than men. At the same time, the same platforms reinforce gendered online behaviours and sex-role stereotypes. Women who voice strong opinions on women’s issues are exposed to verbal abuses and threats of violence.


Social media also tend to create negative body image and low self-esteem by emphasizing obsessive celebrity culture, physical perfection, and beauty.

According to the UN’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development, 73% of women have already experienced cyber violence. Women receive rape, death threats, and gendered abuses for expressing their opinions online.

As per a survey by UN Women, in India, 28% of women who faced online abuse reduced their online presence and stopped posting on specific issues. These gendered online abuses effectively silence women’s voices and discourses around women’s issues.

Cyber-crime against women is also on the rise. Stalking women online, sending unsolicited and persistent messages through WhatsApp and e-mails, developing pornographic content, and morphed photos to target women are some of how women are harassed on social media.

What is more, women do not know where to report such issues and how to deal with them. Women subjected to such cyber crimes and problems are vulnerable to mental health issues such as emotional stress, depression, and hypertension, further affecting their lives.

Trolling on social media of women who defy sexism and gender bias is another dangerous trend that has to be taken note of. Trolls are abusers who push defamatory, personally abusive content targeting individuals. Women, especially those who voice non-mainstream and anti-modernization views, are trolled exceptionally on social platforms.

The e-mail spoofing would be cause substantial monetary loss. Regular phishing, the attempt to gain sensitive information such as a username and password and intent to obtain personal information, becomes a major threat for women in the digital world.

Then what is the solution, how can we create a secure,  inclusive, and gender unbiased media!. This is not just covering ‘women’s issues.’ It is about to ensure content is balanced across gender lines and respects the diversity that represents nearly fifty per cent of the world’s population.

We have to make sure more women occupy managerial roles in the newsroom and higher positions in the field of print journalism, television, web channels, and publications.

There should be an equal pay scale for female media workers and development programs to increase their skills and leadership abilities. Despite laws and regulations, practical actions against perpetrators are not taken.

As per NCRB data, around 15000 cybercrime incidents registered in 2018; however, the investigation is pending for the same amount of crimes that were reported in the previous year. So the state should ensure the enforcement of laws to prevent stalkings, cybercrimes, and other online abuses in priority.

Lastly, it is not impossible for men to effectively cover gender issues — they just need to be aware of women’s needs and perspectives.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this reader-submitted article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

This reader-submitted article has NOT BEEN EDITED by League of India and is published as received.

Omm Priyadarshi

Omm Priyadarshi is a Development Studies scholar from NIT Rourkela. He typically writes on socio-cultural, environmental and gender-related issues.

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CULTURE-HERITAGE

Hindu Temples Reopen With Protocols In Harare, Zimbabwe

Cameron Street Shree Omkar Mandir celebrated 90th anniversary in February 2019.

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HARARE (Zimbabwe): Two Hindu temples in Harare (Zimbabwe), run by The Hindoo Society Harare (HSH), which have been closed for few months due to COVID-19, are opening again on September 26 with various protocols.

The temperature of each person entering the premises of the Hindoo Society will be taken and hands will be sanitized at the entrance. Individuals with a temperature not in the permissible range (36.1 °C to 37.2 °C) will be denied entry, an announcement of HSH Executive Committee states.

Wearing of masks is compulsory and visitors will be required to give their names and contact numbers at the entrance and abide by the tape demarcations to observe social distancing (minimum two meters) within the temple. Any person refusing to follow the procedures will be required to leave the premises, the announcement adds.


Commending HSH for attempting necessary precautions and actions to combat deadly coronavirus and educating the community, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged Hindus to draw closer to God through prayer during COVID-19.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, suggested Hindus pray at least twice daily in their home shrines with total devotion and pure heart. These prayers might include making offerings to ishta-devata, chanting mantras, reading sacred texts, performing aarti and bhajans, doing puja, etc.

Hindus are God’s people, full of courage and generosity. Petition God for the common good of all the local and world communities during these times of confusion and suffering, Rajan Zed says.


Ridgeview Shree Omkar Mandir will be open daily from 06:00 am 07:30 pm, while Cameron Street Shree Omkar Mandir will be open daily from 07:30 am to noon. Mandir (Temple) will be disinfected daily by a professional company, per the announcement.

Cameron Street Shree Omkar Mandir celebrated 90th anniversary in February 2019, while 25th anniversary of Ridgeview Shree Omkar Mandir was observed in 2017. HSH “intends to publish a written record” of the hundred years of “community’s existence in Zimbabwe”.

In the pre-COVID-19 times, HSH reportedly had been conducting various bhajan events, twice-weekly yoga classes, Hindi lessons, cultural/social activities; organized daily aarti at both the temples with Havan on Sundays; and offered funeral assistance for bereaved families; etc.; besides running Mahila Mandal, Shishu Mandal and Yuvak Mandal. HSH has also been running various schools—Westridge High School, Westridge Primary School, Gujarati School.

Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

Lok Sabha Passes Jammu And Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020

The Bill proposes to include Kashmiri, Dongri and Hindi in the list of official languages of the UT.

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NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill under which Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, will be the official languages in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier, the official language for the Union territory was only Urdu.

Speaking about the bill in Lok Sabha, Union Minister of State for Home Ministry G. Kishan Reddy said that that the legislation will fulfil the long-awaited demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.


He said the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir had informed the Centre that people across the Union Territory had been demanding to include the languages they speak and understand as their official language.

The minister pointed out that around 74 per cent people in the Union Territory spoke Kashmiri and Dogri languages.

He said that according to 2011 census, only 0.16 per cent population in Jammu and Kashmir spoke Urdu, while 2.3 per cent spoke Hindi.


The bill was passed by a voice vote.

Meanwhile, the Sikh and Gujjar communities have protested the exclusion of Punjabi and Gojri languages from the bill.

Participating in the debate on the Bill, Naresh Gujral (SAD) termed it “unfortunate” that Punjabi was not included in the Bill and urged the government to reconsider it.

The J&K Constitution included Punjabi and the first Chief Minister of J&K was a Punjabi, he said and added: “It hurts the feeling of those who are settled there. I would urge the government to reconsider because language is the basis of cultural heritage of the community.” He said 13 lakh Punjabis live in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) demanded inclusion of Gurjari, Punjabi and Pahari in the Bill, saying that the motto of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” was lacking in the state.


“Include Punjabi, Gurjari and Pahari so that we win the trust of everyone in J&K,” he said.

Ramdas Athawale (RPI) expressed “support to Dogri and Kashmiri languages” and in his poetic style said that a day will come when PoK will come to India.

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AGENTS OF CHANGE

Legendary Indian Classical Vocalist Pandit Jasraj Dies At 90

Pandit Jasraj was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour.

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NEW JERSEY (United States): Pandit Jasraj, one of the world’s most prominent Indian classical vocalists passed away at the age of 90 due to cardiac arrest, says his daughter Durga Jasra. “With profound grief, we inform that Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji breathed his last this morning at 5.15 EST due to a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, USA,” a statement issued by his family said, newswire agency PTI reported.

Born in Haryana in 1930, his musical career spanned eight decades. In the year 2000, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the maestro’s death has left a deep void in the country’s cultural sphere:


President Ram Nath Kovind also expressed his condolences and posted that the revered vocalist had “enthralled people with soulful renditions.”

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