Opposing Gender violence: Yes, I Have a Vested Interest
This weekend, I attended a media workshop on gender in Bangalore, organized by Population First, an organization that creates gender sensitivity. During the workshop a question came up quite a few times: 'Is it ok for journalists to get involved in an issue they cover?'
I have heard that question before. Usually, the reply is, 'No. Journalists should be objective.' This time, however, I heard a different one. Shakuntala Narsimhan - a very senior journalist in her sixties (she was writing against infanticide and female feticide much before I was even born) with four decades of experience said, 'yes, a journalist is a human being first. So, when a wrong happens, she/he must first act like a human being and then like professionals.'
This took me back to my own childhood.
Eleven months old, I was sick, had acute headache (as revealed by a doctor later) and cried a lot, loudly. My father, who always wanted a boy child who is no more, couldn't stand the 'noise' and holding me like a chicken (I can't see how else you could do that), threw me a few yards.
What could have happened? Consider this: Broken limbs. Internal bleeding. Brain damage. Multiple organ damage. Death.
But - and I have no idea how - I survived. In fact, surviving is all I did then. Because, at that age, I hadn't even learned to speak.
Three decades later, I know how to speak. How to write and how to film. Combined together, these are various components of my own voice.
Should I not use this voice to say what happened to me? How it happened? Who did it and why he did it?
Should I not reveal it in order to remain objective?
I believe I should. And I believe that by doing so, I break no code of journalist ethics. I am a journalist. But I also am a human being. And when the human in me is being violated and abused, it is only ethical to shout that out.
The law of my country is neutral. It is blind. It knows no bias. And it takes no sides.
Yet, the law speaks in favor of the one who is right and has been wronged. Does that make the law unethical?
As a journalist and a survivor of violence, I believe that it is a right thing for me to speak against the violence that I faced and what scores of girls and women face in my country. And the world.
I believe, its ethical to have a 'vested' interest in the good. And in social change. Unless we do that, change will never come.
So yes, I do have a vested interest in opposing gender violence. And so I speak. Annually in India, seven hundred thousand girl children are killed just because they are girls. I speak against that.
Over 90% of women in my country experience sexual harassment or assaults. I speak against that.
245 million women in my country are deprived of education. I speak against that.
I also speak for those who are wronged. abused, tortured, hurt and unheard.
Because I am one of them. I live with them in one house. And when my house is on fire, I can't just stand by and watch or take notes. I need to fight it.
Because it is right and ethical.