Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Media’s Cowardice Towards Women | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

A video recording has shown the Sudanese police, in the presence of a judge, brutally whipping a woman suspected of performing an “indecent act.”

Kidnapped women are being exchanged in the city of Kirkuk, Iraq.

In the last eight months, there have been 232 cases of violence against women and children in Yemen.

WikiLeaks revealed that Iran offered Iraqi tribal chiefs temporary marriages in return for political influence.

That was a quick sample of news stories published by the media in just one week. If we searched more closely, we would inevitably find more news items of this sort, in which women are viewed as both an object of pleasure as well as pity. This is something that is derived from a culture that existed prior to such acts.

However, when such news is reported in the media, it is covered in the margins, rather than as headline news. It seems that those in the news-rooms and the editing rooms do not find such reports as being worthy of highlighting or prominence.

A few days ago, an activist from a women’s association that is dedicated to combating violence against women asked me “what must we do to draw the media’s attention to our causes? Almost all our efforts to ensure that the media is our genuine partner in highlighting such stories have ended in failure.” Whenever I read the news about the suffering experienced by women in our society, I recall the question raised by this activist. This is the very same question that we are tired of repeating, but nevertheless, all answers to this remain feeble, as do the attempts to rectify this situation.

Why is the Arab media still hesitant regarding women’s issues? The generalization here is on purpose, for whilst there are a few disparate attempts here and there to highlight this, Arab media on the whole is failing to address the crux of the matter.

There is no doubt that women today play a key role in modern societies. In fact, the advancement of women’s roles is the cornerstone of any country that seeks development and growth. However, this creates a terrible fear within our societies, which regard development and growth as synonymous with westernization, and as a loss of identity. Although women’s rights are integral to the universal system of rights, this issue remains a minefield in Arab states, amidst religious and cultural controversy.

The problem lies in the fact that those who are entrusted to take up the struggle, namely civil society and the media, are still indecisive about their options, and remain hesitant. The media’s role in raising Arab awareness is still ineffective, and it seems to lack enthusiasm towards engaging in this particular task.

The Sudanese woman was whipped outside of a police station, in the presence of a judge who repeatedly asked her to sit down. Meanwhile, the police officers carrying out the punishment laughed and urged the photographer to record the onlookers, on the basis that they were part of the “Muslim community” and complicit in her punishment. This is not news that should be casually reported in the margins, but rather this is headline material.

Technological advancement may manage to hide the reality of our media, by giving the impression that we have a modern media institution that is able to compete internationally. However in reality we do not hesitate to use these new technologies to insulate ourselves [from what is really happening], fearing that uncomfortable truths may be revealed about the nature of our own thoughts.

How ugly these facts are, when they are uncovered!