Rape and Sexual Violence in the News: Comparing Ten Newspapers Across Six Languages in India

Authors: Thorsen, E. and Sreedharan, C.

Conference: MeCCSA 2019 Conference

Dates: 9-11 January 2019


At least 125 rapes are reported to police every 24 hours in India, with sexual violence either ignored or sensationalised by news media. Despite the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape and a series of similarly disturbing incidents since, there has been only limited attempts to understand the news media's role in this context. News coverage is typically prejudiced against the survivor, with shaming of victims (Dreze and Sen, 2013). According to Joseph (2005), news reports about sexual assault and harassment in India resemble banal crime briefs or sensational stories, and fail to demonstrate any deep engagement with the subject. However, research concerning news reporting of rape cases in India specifically is primarily concentrated on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and its aftermath, or on national English language news.

In this paper present findings from one of the largest comparative content analysis of news reporting of rape in India, covering ten newspapers across six languages in India for a three-month period (June to August 2018). We compare how victims and accused are described in news reports, the location and type of rape crime, and which sources are mentioned or afforded a voice in relation to rape. We uncover distinct variations in news reporting of rape in different regions and languages, which reflect the vast and complex media landscape and cultural differences across India. These differences highlight the need for a more nuanced approach to media representation and sexual violence, and provide evidence for targeted interventions is required.

Source: Manual