Negative and Demeaning Portrayal of Women in Advertisements and Serials

Negative and Demeaning Portrayal of Women in Advertisements and Serials.
June 17, 2004  
The Secretary
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Government of India .
Subject : Negative and Demeaning Portrayal of Women in Advertisements and Serials.
Dear Shri Chawla,
We address this memorandum to you on behalf of the Media Monitoring Group of the All India Democratic Women's Association. The MMG has been campaigning against the devaluation of women in the media, more specifically in the portrayal of women in advertisements as well as TV serials. Our campaigns have met with some limited success in so far as ensuring the withdrawal of some advertisements. Our campaign against the Fair and Lovely ads for example elicited a response from the previous Government who had issued show-cause notices to the company concerned forcing them to at least modify some of the ads, though as far as we are concerned the advertisements are still highly objectionable based on racial and sexist bias. We have also joined the campaign being run by the NCW and have focused on several objectionable advertisements from garments to advertising of tourist spots in which women have been shown as sex objects. Other advertisements are such which cause great affront to a woman's dignity by either commodifying them or presenting them in traditional stereo typed roles. Some other ads in fact emphasise and support retrogressive social practices like son preference, dowry, bigamy etc as well as double meanings, lewd gestures and comments . Apart from demeaning women, it is now widely recognized that such advertisements do have an impact in shaping social approaches to women and that there is a link between the portrayal of women in the media and violence against women.
All such ads in the electronic media promoting any kind of discrimination or inequality should be strictly monitored and discouraged.
In the serials too, the images of women are cleverly constructed to reinforce and obtain public sanction for certain conventional value codes. To add to the discomfort, over the last few years, there is a flooding of serials based on obscurantism, horror, strange kind of mysticism, black magic and promoting unscientific temperament of mind. These serials need to be replaced by the ones projecting and promoting positive images of women by showing their social and intellectual potential and contribution for the betterment of the society. Further, the growing tendency to show violence as a source of entertainment and sadistic pleasure should surely not find any space in channels run by a public broadcasting service like Doordarshan.
National women organizations, including AIDWA have also submitted a memorandum to the Minister outlining a comprehensive approach on Media policy.
What we would like to urge you to do is to immediately set up a mechanism where one can send day to day complaints and objections for immediate hearing and action. We are aware of the two inter -Ministerial Committees that exist. In discussions with your predecessor we were given to understand that the committees functioning wa s under review and that our complaints would be looked in to. However we have not heard anything more on the matter. Since the then Minister had referred to these committees in the context of our complaint on Fair and Lovely ads which was raised in Parliament by MP Smt. Premajam we would like to know the exact functions and jurisdiction of these committees. Surely the work of the committees needs to be made more transparent and publicly accountable. We believe that it is essential to involve women's organizations in monitoring mechanisms, which would have an impact in raising the standards of advertisements and serials in so far as the portrayal of women is concerned.
We also request you to issue strict instructions vis a vis the implementation of the code for advertisers.

Thanking you
Yours sincerely,
Manjeet Rathee (AIDWA CEC member),
Kamakshi Malhotra (Convenor) Shahnaz
Khan, Nazia, Tanvi, Bhavna, Ila Mishra, Smija P.S.