Zahra Sepehr Women Rights Activist
We are all gathered in my mother’s home. TV is on and in one of the religious channels such subtitle is written: My husband fell in love with my aunt; if he divorces me, can he marry my aunt? The answer is written: Yes, it is permissible.
I thought for hours about the impact of the broadcast of this question and answer. How a fundamental religious channel, which blames other media channels for promoting profanity and eliminating family bonds, can so easily and irresponsibly spread intangible but effective violence.
Going home along with my sons in a taxi. The radio is on and the loud laughter of a young female radio broadcaster has filled the atmosphere. She uses words such dear, sweetie and love several times. Taxi driver with a smile insults: how can a family allow her daughter to laugh like this! Shame on her!
I ask: Are you forced to listen to this channel? Answers vigorously: Then what I should do. All the channels are filled with these types of women. I only like the music. If my daughter talks and laughs like this, I will break her neck.
My sons are busy playing games filled with the sounds of ambulance and police sirens. I said: These sounds scare me, don’t you have any other interests.
Amir Ali (My son) answers: You don’t allow us to watch TV; it broadcasts vulgar shows and programs; insults women and shows violence. You don’t allow us to use Facebook saying we are not in a proper age. Should we not play games too? Then what should we do?
Freedom of speech is one of the important achievements during 14 years. Medias such as audio, video and written and Social Medias such as Facebook, Tweeter and Telegram have gathered massive followers.
Women’s presence in different programs as reporters and broadcasters show a beautiful image of shared effort along men but when we focus into it, unfortunately we can see cons too.
Though all the media officials tend to support equality and decrease violence against women alongside other civil organizations, in practice we see different results which media officials are less aware of. Soft and quite programs tend to attack audience and harm them without any notice; violence against women in society and families is on a rise through media.
For me as a woman, a mother and a woman rights activists who has dedicated 10 years working in Afghanistan media, this issue has a significant impact. For more clarification, I divide women’s presence in media into three categories and briefly point out the media role in increasing violence against women.
More than 10 channels are operating in capital city which covers most part of Afghanistan. Private channels also have their own broadcasts in all provinces. In addition, hundreds of Iranian, Turkey, Arabic, American and European satellite channels have their own special programs.
Television has massive audience in megacities of Afghanistan. It is considered as entertainment to watch TV alongside families and guests. TV broadcasts, apart from playing a role of mutual understanding and promoting family bonds can have negative uncontrolled impacts; TV serials that promote distrust among families, TV advertisement which demonstrates women as washing machine, men who play the role of women in entertainment shows that shows women as illogical, physical abuse worthy and argumentative.
Even news channels that show the victims of violence which their cases are not followed-up and the perpetrator has not been arrested yet can make the citizens think that violence against women is just a common and accepted issue in the society which does not have any legal punishment.
Women conductors in TV stations of Afghanistan are blamed for sexual misconduct in society. Under the name of shame, families take that as moral lesson and do not permit their daughters to work or continue their studies.
The other dimension of violence is observed in the media itself. There are specification and separate rules for hiring a female applicant. For example, she needs to wear cloths based on her manager’s preferences and obey whatever he says. These happenings degraded the value of women and cause them to leave their careers for good.
Radio is considered the second most followed media category all over Afghanistan especially drivers, shopkeepers, labor, farmers, housewives are among the constant listeners of it. Radio channels either broadcast entertainment programs and music or has a complete religious agenda. It has positive and negative impact either ways.
The attention point is that in radio channels, conductors are young females who run different programs and because they are not scared of being watched and identified, they put nicknames and openly laughs without being in fear of domestic and social violence.
What is considered to be very dangerous is the dual personality of women which radio channels force the female conductors to duplicate in order to attract more listeners and to satisfy the managers’ requests. This is also a concealed way of violence against female employees by media.
On the other end, young male and female either envies or insults those female conductors and generalize it as improper upbringing of the families. Street harassment of women and improper treatment by taxi and bus drivers with female passengers are the violence which results from such radio programs.
Facebook, Tweeter and Telegram are the most followed social media in Afghanistan. A great number of women have accounts in such applications. But it is obvious that in social applications there are inadequate security measures for women’s presence and a great deal of problems for women who have an open mindset. Fake accounts, usage of personal pictures of women and girls, insulting and immoral messages, and false accusations against civil and political women activists have made women’s presence in social media tight.
It is significant to know that women are an inseparable part of Afghanistan in current situation and to respect their rights and equality are considered the obligation of a peaceful country. Despite that, violence against women is the main challenge of the country.
Afghanistan media having the most influential and beneficial facilities can play an important role in decreasing violence against women. It is significant to agree with freedom of speech principals and to take precautionary measures before broadcasting any improper programs.
Media can be the two sides of a coin. One side can demonstrate a society in absence of violence while the other side can portray a violent society. It is of great importance to choose which side of coin for a society which values freedom of speech and women rights.