I Think: People like reading about sex and violence

Sindhu Mansukhani, senior subeditor, Mumbai

Photo: Sindhu Mansukhani

Rape is one of the most important beats in journalism. As a crime that has existed in society since time immemorial, and sexual violence being a form of conflict between the sexes, it affects each and every one of us. Its prevalence and the threat it poses makes it relevant for every reader.

The objective of covering rape is to make the reader aware that this kind of violence exists in our society, and that people must remain informed, protect themselves and their families, and take steps for its prevention.

Most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. This is of special significance when it comes to child sexual abuse. Without the extensive coverage of such cases, people would think of keeping kids with relatives or in a daycare as a fool-proof method of keeping them safe. However, that is not always the case. Ever since sexual abuse has come into focus in the past decade or so, more people know about things such as ‘bad touch’ and ‘good touch’.

Rape is also something that generates a lot of reader interest. Sex and violence are topics that attract human beings’ attention immediately. In some cases it can also be a source of voyeurism. And as the reader is the king for a newspaper, stories and details that he likes to consume are prioritised.

Not all rape or child sexual abuse cases make it to the newspapers. Between two cases of child sexual abuse or rape of a woman: one being in a posh, affluent area of a metropolis and the other being in a slum, the former will end up being published, thanks to the high interest value in its details. This interest would lie in details such as the rape happening in a gated society with a high-end security apparatus, the accused or suspect being someone from the lower class who had his/her eyes upon a victim belonging to the upper class.

If a woman gets raped or a child is sodomised in a slum, it is seen as something that ‘always happens in a slum, there’s nothing new about it’. So such cases don’t get covered often. This is where developmental journalism, perhaps, can fill the vacuum created by the lack of coverage of such stories in mainstream media.

Every rape case is a layer that gets added to gender politics, patriarchy and gender discrimination. As a journalist, I hope to bring into focus things such as gender politics and the fact that rape is one of the most powerful tools for a man to assert his masculinity. Reporting its occurrence and carrying the story forward through constructive articles and meaningful debates can counter gender discrimination and gender violence.

I also hope for my stories to educate people about how children of both sexes are under constant threat of being taken advantage of.