I Think: News reports make it easy to imagine the woman, but never the rapist

Sandeep P S, filmmaker and creative director, Bangalore

‘Most articles are not much more than the headline’. Photo courtesy: Shikin Moozhiyil

I read the news every day, which is mostly the newspaper The Hindu and the Inshorts news app. When I come across stories of rape, my instinct is to find out where it happened, why, whether it’s happening more often [if it’s in a certain region], or whether it’s just being reported more. After my initial reaction of anxiety and fear, I then try to understand the context of the crime.

The primary issue I have with the reportage of rape is the way it is reported, or the stand it seems to take. Typically, there’ll be extensive details about the girl and then this will be followed by “was gang-raped by four–five men”, without giving any details about the men. You can imagine the woman, but you can never imagine this rapist. That’s why I think reports should be more factual and representative rather than focusing on popping headlines that mention it was an eleven-year-old or thirteen-year-old girl. They’re using the information in a way that will get viewers’ attention.

The problem is that media reporting isn’t unbiased. And they’re worsening the situation by not giving any insight into the rapists, what kind of men they are, what’s propelling them to do these acts. Often, the reportage also becomes political — for example, if they mention a woman’s caste, it’ll become a Dalit issue.

I think some sort of analysis definitely needs to be included in reports on rape. Try and find out why it’s happening, what are the regional factors that make rape more prevalent in certain areas, write about the rapist etc. All papers will give a mere account of the incident, but we need more than that. Right now, most articles are not much more than the headline.

This is one in a series of articles that NewsTracker published from 25 November to 10 December as part of the #16Days activism, aligned with the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence Against Women. This piece appeared on Day 11.