Combating domestic violence: role of media
Sadrul Hasan Mazumder
Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), along with other program interventions, has been implementing an advocacy campaign, which firstly aimed at influencing the policy level to enact an independent legislation to combat domestic violence and secondly to creating a community intervention to address domestic violence within the community. The community program has been implemented in nine districts of the country to recognize domestic violence as offense involving the union level Standing Committee on Violence against Women. An independent Domestic Violence [Protection & Prevention] Bill 2009 has been finalised and submitted to the government with the efforts of nearly forty organizations under the platform “Citizen's Initiative against Domestic Violence [CiDV], which is coordinated by BNWLA. The coalition had series of consultations with different professional groups including judges and lawyers to finalise the draft.
BNWLA organised the workshop titled "Roles of Media to address Domestic Violence" recently bringing journalists of both Print and Electronic Media from local and national level, academics and women activists together to discuss the role of media in recognising domestic violence as offence. The participants in the workshop unanimously urged the media to be more responsive towards women and viewed that media should always portray the positive side of women's contribution in family, society as well the nation.
Inaugurating the workshop Advocate Salma Ali, Executive Director of BNWLA said that immediate enactment of an independent Domestic Violence is urgent, best efforts should be put to change the attitude of the society, which is not possible without functional cooperation of the Media. Emphasising on the proper implementation of laws she urged all out support from both print and electronic media to curb domestic violence in the society. She viewed that too many people continued to believe that domestic violence is a private matter between couple, rather than a criminal offence that merits a strong and speedy response.
Moderated by Sadrul H. Mazumder the workshop was addressed by Maleka Begum, Gender Specialist, Dr. Farzana Islam, Professor Department of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Professor Geetiara Nasreen, Department of Journalism, Dhaka University, and Nasimun Ara Huq, President of Nari Sangbadik Kendra. The participants however observed that the victims are more exposed in media than the perpetrators and in cases the contents of news on violence against women do not conform the Human Rights Standards, which makes the victims further vulnerable. The speakers opined that in most cases Domestic Violence are not recognised by the society and such gender-based violence are not always exposed in the media. The participants viewed that domestic violence exists in every cluster of the society whether reach or poor, educated or uneducated but all those facts of violence are not exposed to the society. The participants however urged all concerned to challenge domestic violence in the next door and inform the concerned organisations for their support. Appreciating that Media has been playing an important role in covering the incidences of violence against women, the participants opined that media only concentrate on severe incidences like murder, suicide, rape etc and urged the authority to focus of domestic violence.
Numerous researches indicate that women are not safe in their homes where they are supposed to be safest. Most women in Bangladesh suffer physical, emotional, sexual and economic violence at the hands of their intimate partners or family members, she opined. The greatest obstacle to addressing Domestic Violence is family secrecy, cultural norms, fear, shame or the community's reluctance to get involved in what is seen as a domestic affair.
The daylong workshop concluded with recommendations including, private own media should be more sensitized and they should be sincere about publishing incidences of domestic violence. A documentary should be prepared on domestic violence and telecast in electronic media. Reports covering the incidences of domestic violence should be considered as serious by the print media- and Editorial Policy should be more specific on the said issue. Journalist should be more informed by the local and national organizations about the incidences of domestic violence. Journalist should be trained on gender discrimination and domestic violence. An independent Domestic Violence Act should be enacted recognising domestic violence as offence, which will enable the journalist to report on the incidences of domestic violence.
Sadrul Hasan Mazumder is Program Manager of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA).