The #GBVinMedia Project
A hard look at how mainstream media reports gender-based violence
The #GBVinMedia project was a year-long campaign that I directed at Feminism in India, that looked at the way that the media reports gender-based violence. The #GBVinMedia project comprised broadly of four major activities – a) the research and creation of the #GBVinMedia toolkit, b) facilitation of events, workshops and seminars to disseminate the toolkit, c) a digital advocacy campaign and d) the crowdsourced art project. I was enabled to undertake this project by receiving two Small Grants by Women Deliver, during my time as a Women Deliver Young Leader.
What is the #GBVinMedia Toolkit?
The #GBVinMedia toolkit was designed with the objective of providing media platforms and professionals a handy guide when it comes to reporting gender-based violence sensitively and ethically. 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. Apart from contributing to society's skewed power balance, this reportage has the effect of re-traumatising and triggering survivors of gender-based violence.
This 30-page toolkit provided an overview of the nature of rape reportage in English language media in India and where it goes wrong. It listed 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 is available for free download at bit.ly/GBVinMedia.
The #GBVinMedia Toolkit was launched in Delhi on July 4th 2019, and has been presented at the Mumbai & Kolkata Press Clubs as well (in collaboration with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Sruti Disability Rights Centre respectively). It has been presented at five university seminars across Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, including at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. Apart from university seminars, we have presented this at The Media Rumble 2019 by Newslaundry in New Delhi, at a panel discussion at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, and an open workshop on gender-sensitive journalism that was co-organised by Feminism in India and Breakthrough India.
In total, we have conducted nine events with a combined audience of at least 500 people comprised mostly of students, with others coming from teaching, journalism or civil society backgrounds. We also conducted five meetings with various stakeholders – journalism faculty heads and related civil society organisations, to explore collaborations and partnerships. These resulted in the republishing partnership with the Media Action Against Rape project from Bournemouth University UK, the co-organised open workshop with Breakthrough India, and commitments from at least four faculty members to use this toolkit in their course curricula.
Digital Advocacy Campaign
Alongside the offline workshops and events, I also ran a digital advocacy campaign from mid-October to early February, based on the recommendations listed out in the #GBVinMedia toolkit. I converted the toolkit into twenty bite sized infographics and twenty articles on how the media reports gender-based violence. The campaign was extremely successful – one poster got 300+ shares on Facebook and another received 6000+ likes on Instagram, while the most successful article from the campaign was read nearly 17,000 times. The total reach of the campaign was over 700,000. The digital advocacy campaign saw immense amounts of traction, with multiple comments on our social media platforms about how this series was thought-provoking and had changed the way they read the news. Another comment spoke about how this campaign depicted not just problems, but solutions – something that they deeply appreciated.
Here is a brief selection of some of the campaign's infographics.
Crowdsourced Art Project
I saved the best for last! One of the key recommendations of the #GBVinMedia toolkit is that the media replace the images it currently uses with articles on GBV with more affirming and uplifting images. To facilitate this, we put out a call for a crowdsourced art campaign, asking artists to submit alternative images that the media could use. The top ten images were uploaded on Creative Commons License for free use and redistribution. We received a total of 52 submissions from 26 artists, of which we selected 10 top images. The art project received a lot of attention on social media, with several journalists sharing it and using the images. Till date, I am aware of six media houses that have started to use the images, and seen multiple instances of people on Twitter tagging news organisations that use problematic and triggering images for their rape reportage, and linking them to the image bank that we have created. The reach of the image bank alone as shared over social media by our handles is over 60,000. The page with the images available for download has been viewed nearly 4,000 times.