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Present study aims at analyzing status of women in Pakistani society as represented by the local newspapers in crime reports. It is designed to explore the role of print media in making up the minds of the masses and effects of any issue represented in print media on the minds of the readers. My research questions deal with the linguistic features used to represent women in print media and effects of this stereotypical representation.
Human being is naturally querulous and while living in a society, s/ he has to get in touch with other beings. Everyone has his/ her own opinion and particular style. There can be many conflicts among people and if they will not try to reduce them, there can be several clashes that can result in a desire to create troubles for others. Obviously human beings are selfish and they do not hesitate to harm others. So in every society some rules are made to protect the rights of the people and any one violating these laws is punished by the authorities according to the nature of his/ her disobedience and this violation of rules is called crime. Legal definition of crime is: “An international violation of the criminal law or penal code committed without defense or excuse and penalized by the state.” (Bohm & Haley, 2002, P.29)
1.2 Gender and Crime
Gender differences in committing any crime are very important. Gender and crime cannot be separated as most of the crimes committed are normally against opposite sex e.g. rape, violence, wife beating, sexual abuse, pornography etc. Heidensohn (1989, P. 99) discussed gender and crime under three headings:
I. Important contributions to the ethnography of female criminality
II. Gender and criminal justice
III. Gender-based crimes
1.3 Importance of Media
Media works as the mirror of any society, and, furthermore, it has a power to construct the minds of the masses so significance of any agenda represented in media cannot be denied. Altschull (1984, P.187 & 194) believes in the power of press and calls them “the most powerful men in the history of the world.” He uses the simile of German shepherd for the press who keeps an eye over everything and in his words: “The press is clearly cast in the role of an independent actor as investigator, combatant and planner”.
1.4 Media and Gender Specific Description
Modern society claims to provide equality to men and women in every field of life but differences are there and women are still treated partially and it is evident even from language used for them. According to Sapir (1921) language is a means to express our ideas and thoughts. So it is better to judge the attitude of the people towards any issue by focusing the language used by them. Significance of the language used by media is indisputable and definitely media has the power to construct stereotypes. Women are kind hearted by nature so there is a great dissimilarity between the crimes committed by both men and women. It is a fact that percentage of female criminals is much lower than males but another bitter fact cannot be denied is to highlight the faults of women to greater extent.
1.5 Patriarchy is the Main Reason
Differences in representation of women are perhaps the result of male dominated society. Most of the reporters in print media are male and it is perhaps a clear cut reason of these differences. Observations of Spender in her article edited by Roberts in 1981 clearly indicate her approach towards publication of material against women. She says that feminists and others protest against the data published but very little attention is given to the process of publication and it is impossible or at least very difficult to find “hard data” as well as “soft data” on the subject. She discusses the process of publication under four headings:
I. Significance of publishing
II. Shaping the discipline
III. The criteria
IV. Male gate keepers
She says that we should focus our interest towards gate keeping and ‘male control' and should have proper attention towards the issue unless women are represented on equal basis.
1.6 Analyzing Crime Reporting
The main focus of my project was on analyzing crime reporting. Padhy 2006 discusses crimes in daily lives and pattern of crimes against women and says that a challenge in analyzing data on crime in general and on crime against women in particular is the difficulty of measuring the level and degree of crime. He emphasizes that crimes against women should be given particular attention as women are at risk even in their homes and concludes as the recognition of criminal nature of crimes against women is not sufficient but these should be prevented and certain steps should be taken by authorities for the purpose.
1.7 Pakistan, Women and Media
Pakistan is an Islamic country and Islam protects the rights of women and gives great respect to women but in Sub-continent Muslims and Hindus have lived together for centuries. So we have adopted so many things from their culture and now even after sixty three years of independence, we are unable to get rid of these customs and traditions. Humiliating attitude towards women is one of those customs. In crime reporting women do not achieve protected status. Though Pakistani media is changing its negative approach towards women yet visibility of women in crime reporting is not increased.
1.8 Research Methods
The newspapers for the project were selected from 1st May 2009 to 30th of May 2009. I used two methods of analyses to do the research quantitatively and qualitatively as these both were necessary to unearth the whole situation. I used ‘Discourse Analysis' to show the language used by print media. Lexis and grammar used for women were examined in this analysis and on the other hand, ‘Content Analysis' to see the frequency, location and space given to the news about women. Furthermore, I have made use of questionnaires to explore opinion of readers about this representation.
1.9 Research Format
Second chapter deals with the previous researches done in the field. Firstly, there is general discussion about status of women as highlighted by Western and Pakistani media. Secondly, women's representation in crime reports in print media is discussed. Third chapter deals with the methods of research. Fourth chapter includes findings and discussions of the analyses and after findings and discussion, there is a brief conclusion.