Women ask Assamese TV channel to stop moral policing


Women organisations write to television channel Protidin Time and Assam State Commission for Women raising the issue of the derogatory references to women made by the channel’s news report that targeted women in short skirts with tagline – fashion as expose

By Team FI
Women’s organisations such as the North East Network and Vimochana have raised the issue of the recent controversial news report on ‘Scantily clad girls: a summertime nuisance’ in an Assamese television Channel Protidin Time which showed women wearing short skirts and dresses with tagline ‘Fashion as Expose’.

North East Network, in a letter to the channel stated that they strong objected to the news item and stated that, “We reassert that culture and dress are not inter-related. They are different dimensions and everyone has a right to dress in whatever attire they want to. Values of culture are best upheld by values of equality and respect taught to children at home and which go on a long way to shape their attitudes to men and women in the society.” The North East Network has demanded they issue a proper rejoinder at prime time on the channel.

The North East Network letter pointed out that “Journalism does not have the authority to demean and disgrace women by commenting on their dress code, clothing choices, appearances, lifestyle, private choices and rights. The way this news item portrays women’s bodies amounts to voyeurism and stalking (354C and 354D) and is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.”

Meanwhile Vimochana has written a letter to the Assam State Commission For Women on the subject stating that as an agency vested with the responsibility for safety and interest of women of the State and also having official power to stop retrograde activities against women by any state or non-state agency, to take effective steps to stem airing of moralistic, derogatory and anti-women comments in the media.”

The video which went viral on social media shows clips of women in short skirts with the background music of a very suggestive Hindi film item number Kanta Laga. The report compared simians with women saying that even monkeys are wearing clothes these days “But the need for clothes has come down in the civil society. These are visuals from your favourite city. Now shorts have turned out to be the favourite dress for many young girls in Guwahati. That includes half pants too. As if gradually the dresses of a section of young girls have become increasingly shorter than required. For this breed, fashion is perhaps exposing. But they want to say that wearing clothes as per their choice is a matter of individual right. Wearing shorts give you comfort.”

Journalism does not have the authority to demean and disgrace women by commenting on their dress code, clothing choices, appearances, lifestyle, private choices and rights

The video caused outrage among women viewers. An online petition on Change.org was started against the vernacular media in Assam by Bipasa Saikia, a journalist. “Journalism is not about journalists giving their opinions about other people. Journalism is about journalists stating facts and making the people aware of things in the society. However, since the past eight to ten years we have been noticing a trend in the Assamese media where self-proclaimed journalists go out and sexually objectify women,” stated Saikia.

Responding to a comment on Facebook questioning the reporter Hemen Rajbhongshi on his intentions, he replied, “I don’t think my work disrespects my mother and sisters. Because, they never show their legs in public. You don’t know about the male psychology. Men are visually stimulated by nature. And culture! Perhaps you don’t know Assamese culture. “

The channel had released an official statement stating that: “Pratidin Time had broadcasted particular news around one and an half months back that has come to our notice as being taken up by some people through social media to create an unnecessary stir. The news was presented based on certain widely discussed topics in Assam’s social and cultural spheres. The news was neither meant to insult nor disrespect anybody. If it has in anyway, then the channel ‘Pratidin Time’, is apologetic towards those concerned.”

The North East Network warned the news channel against moral policing and stated that they expected the channel to “mould public opinion on lessons of gender equality and social justice and peace, and not further disintegrate the society by promoting moral policing in the name of culture.”

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