By Margaret McClain
Divya Arya, a multimedia correspondent with BBC focusing on India, discussed the effects gender and violence has had on reporting of gender violence in our COMM class Monday. Specifically, Ms. Arya argued the prevalence of Indian sexual abuse and how these events alter the international image of Indian women. A central focus of Arya’s discussion is the dangers the single story western media created concerning Indian gender violence. Western broadcasting gaze has focused on gender violence, particularly after the 2012 Delhi gang rape, which became international news and drew protests from around the world. Since this, Western media continues to focus on gender violence particularly in cases of group rapes, honor killings, or homicides after an alleged rape. The linkage of Indian women with gendered violence has altered the image of Indian women internationally and has casts Indian women as victims of “an oppressive culture”.
Divya’s own reports show her efforts to combat the single story. Arya’s India’s Long, Dark and Dangerous Walk to the Toilet and Why are Indian women being attacked on social media? highlight the reality Indian women face whether from how Indian women deal with social media to how women tackle the dangers of using the bathroom. Her discussion focused on the need for more stories in the media concerning positive images of Indian women, and how empowerment is central to this. She noted that the lack of empowerment within Mizoram has negatively impacted the women there after showing the class a BBC video on the area.
A key focus of her discussion is the differences in news coverage between Indian media and Western media, specifically on how sex is reported. She compared cases of sexual abuse in both the United States and India and how the resulting media coverage varied between the two. India’s broadcasting focused considerably less on stories of sex-related stories as compared to the United States. The United States has a fascination with sex, seen in the case of the Sayreville hazing incident. Western media tends to be more biased towards alleged perpetrators, particular in cases involving minors. Recently, the coverage focuses on how perpetrators have had their lives ruined by media coverage or the rape allegation itself. She warns against further coverage of sexual abuse in this manner for fear of creating yet another single story.
Ms. Arya has challenged single stories working for the BBC as a correspondent for the past seven years reporting for both a domestic and international audience. She shared her tips with our class when it came to reporting in multimedia formats, such as how context in news reports changes based on the audience. She addressed that stories aimed at an international audience need more context and more attention to details such as the addition of geography, language, and cultural norms. Comparatively, she pointed out how useful connectivity is for reporters. While discussing a previous piece on homeless people in Delhi she discussed how living the experience created a richer story and created further connections between her and the story. Currently, Divya has accepted a Knight Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan where she continues her work researching media coverage of gendered violence.