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'Critical to Involve Men in Gender Disparity Conversations to Increase Awareness'

The director of US-based non-profit organisation Women’s Media Center said both crimes against women in India and their reporting in the media had risen.

Vinaya Deshpande | CNN-News18

Updated:August 27, 2018, 6:37 PM IST
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Mumbai: Awareness is the key to changing the scenario of gender disparity across the globe, the director of a US-based non-profit organisation has said.

“Engaging men, particularly young men, in gender disparity conversations, leads to awareness about the issue. And wider awareness about gender disparity is critical to address the issue,” Cristal Williams Chancellor of the Women’s Media Center said in an exclusive interview to CNN News18 in which she also revealed details of a four-year-long study on sexual assault reportage in India conducted by the institution.

“The number of articles by top Indian (English language) newspapers on sexual assault has nearly doubled in the past four years, with the majority of the increase occurring in mid-2017 and rising steadily throughout 2018. Though there have been specific cases that have garnered higher coverage, no one incident was anywhere close to responsible for the total rise in coverage. It seems that the rise in coverage is, instead, part of a broader global movement in which more media attention is being placed on these issues,” the report found.

The report was based on an analysis of nearly 10,000 articles in the top five newspapers in the country — The Hindu, The Telegraph, The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times and The Times of India — from January 2014 to April 2018.

When asked if the survey meant that crimes against women in India had gone up, or whether its reporting had risen, she said it was a combination of both. “Our analysis shows that both reporting as well as the numbers have gone up. It is true that women feel more compelled now to report cases of sexual assault. This is because awareness about sexual assault has increased not just in India, but around the globe,” Chancellor said.

She added that a major challenge for all countries currently was the inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Not just in India, but also in the US, LGBTQs are under-represented, and are not represented in a manner the community looks at itself, she said.

Over the last 20 years, a whopping 18 million women in USA have reported about sexual assault. The #MeToo Movement, which went viral after 2017, also raised further concerns on the issue. “The #MeToo Movement has permeated the US society, particularly after it went viral in 2017,” she said. The #MeToo Movement is a movement against sexual harassment and assault. Several leading actors have added their voices to the largescale problem of sexual harassment of women, highlighting the complex web of power and abuse. The movement began in 2006, but went viral only after 2017.

While talking of gender disparity in the US, Chancellor said the representation of women in the US media too was skewed. While 52 per cent of US population is women, women are only 38 per cent of the total media workforce. “Sixty-two per cent stories in the media are told by men. Globally too, only 27 per cent leadership roles are played by women,” she said.

When asked about the solutions to address gender disparity, she said that the key was to involve everyone in conversations around disparity. “Also, there are barriers like sexism, traditional ideas about gender roles, institutional barriers. In US, we are trying to address them,” she said.

Talking about the LGBTQ community in India as well as in US, she said the challenges faced in both the countries were similar. “There are stereotypes attached to their lives. There is very little mention of the LGBTQ communities in the mainstream conversations. Even the little reference that is there, is not the way the community looks at itself,” she opined.

While talking of her experience during her month-long visit to India, she talked about her interactions with varied groups of people. Talking of crimes against women and girls, and their aspirations to do well in their lives, she said, “It is necessary to have conversations around issues surrounding gender disparity. It is only then that every girl’s dream in India can be attained. There is conversation around Feminism. What do feminists want? Most of us want equal opportunities for everyone,” she said.


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