Towards Gender Equality in Media
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
The launch of the Media Gender Charter (MGC) happened on 3 March 2021 at 10 a.m. via zoom. The event was hosted by the Hashtag Generation. This charter can be used and adopted by the public for their use.
The main objective of working on such a charter is to march towards achieving gender equality in the field of media in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Constitution states in Article 12 that no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of, among other factors, gender, religion, language, and race, and guarantees to every person the freedom to engage in a lawful occupation. Sri Lanka is a signatory to international agreements on gender equality, safe working conditions, and non-discrimination in the workplace.
Although the Constitution of Sri Lanka in Article 12 emphasises on gender equality and saying no to discrimination based on gender and other differentiation, at the most practical level, problems regarding gender equality still exist. The many terms used in the media to describe women and women-related issues are still problematic and they are serious issues that should be addressed. This is why the MGC is crucial. The charter sets standards and ethics for media reporting in relation to women and girls. It also covers gender equality in work-place policies, practices and working conditions in the media sector.
The charter objectives are in line with Sri Lanka’s national and international commitments to achieve gender equality. Structural changes to media institutions, especially for State media reforms and right to information, have been high on the post-war Sri Lanka media reforms menu. However, discussions on gender portrayal and representation in the media have been subordinated.
What is meant by gender equality?
Gender equality can be described as everyone having the right to be treated with dignity, equality and respect. Any kind of behaviour, such as discrimination, bullying, harassment (sexual, physical or otherwise) or intimidation that undermines these basic rights is not acceptable. Gender equality and gender-based harassment in the workplace can be explained further as below:
- Avoid personal remarks or behaviour that may cause offence or distress - avoid abusive or discriminatory language or behaviour or harassing others on the grounds of age, gender, race, colour, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief, or any other personal characteristic - challenge inappropriate language or behaviour if you see it or hear it. The UN has recognised the longstanding male-gender predominance in media as another key factor that affects editorial integrity.
On top of this, there is an increase in incitement to hostility against targeted news outlets and individual reporters, and of intimidation via digital channels where women journalists and artists are especially subjected to attack.
How gender sensitive is our media?
In most cases women are being sexualised in Sri Lankan media. Also, is our media portrayal diverse and is it gender sensitive? Although 52 per cent of the population in Sri Lanka are women, the inclusiveness of women in Sri Lankan media is unfortunately insufficient.
Media personalities such as Smriti Daniels, Nalaka Godahewa, Jamila Husain, Roel Raymond, Amalini, and Nethmi Medawala joined in sharing their views and experiences regarding gender in the field of media.
It is time for us to change. We need to change our attitude and break cultural and social misconceptions about gender stereotyping and sexism, and be gender sensitive in the media in order to achieve gender equality. The MDC addresses these matters in detail and provides a better understanding of media and gender.