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Little emphasis on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right: Survey
New Delhi: According to a study, it has been demonstrated that LGBT issues get marginal coverage in the Indian media (only 34 news items during the study period – out of which 25 were published in English-language newspapers). Within this category, lesbian women and bisexuals appear to be furthermarginalized with hardly any coverage for both these communities. Around half of the stories classified under the LGBT category focused on transgender persons. The official recognition of third gender in India in 2014 could be responsible for this attention although the overall numbers are still too low to be able to demonstrate any significant change.

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Love Matters, a website dedicated towards open, honest, and non-judgmental conversations around sexuality and relationships today unveiled their report examining the nature of news covered by media for the LGBT community in India. The report highlights Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues in six prominent English and Hindi language dailies.

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According to the report, a total of 1,140 items were published on SRHR issues during the period of the study, accounting for 2.1 per cent of total items (54,961). Out of which, sexual violence received the maximum coverage (53 per cent). Within this category, rape related news items accounted for 74 per cent of the total. The study also demonstrated that LGBT issues get negligible coverage with only 34 news items during the study period, most of which appeared in the English-language press.
Sharing her concern over the survey findings, Ms. Vithika Yadav, Head of Love Matters India opined, “It is disheartening to see that basic SRHR issues don’t receive the attention it deserves in Indian media. Particularly in this century, when being vigil about ones SRHR is the need of the hour, it’s alarming to see that critical discussions related to SRHR and LGBT rights issues get very little attention”. She further added, “We at Love Matters, are working towards opening up these critical conversations around sexual health and sexuality issues. This report is one such initiative towards achieving our goals”.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE REPORT:

Of the total 1,140 SRHR related items during the study period, 446 (39%) were about rape. Meanwhile,the wider categories of sexual violence and sexual harassment account for 67% of all the items categorized as SRHR related content in this study. This clearly brings forth the harsh reality of the Indian society and also the issue that if SRHR is related to crime it can very easily fit into the front page of the newspaper.

The other SRHR issues, that got some traction were relationships, legislation and law enforcement, rights and reproduction. It is interesting to note that 81% of all items classified under the relationships category were about marriages, indicating how little attention is given to and how little space is available for relationships that fall outside the traditional norms.

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There is also very little focus on SRH rights in the media. Most of the items classified under this category pertained to police raids on sex traffickers and rescue of sex workers. This is perhaps also down to crime being of most interest to the news editors. There is very little reporting or discussion on other aspects of SRH rights such as consent, which is perhaps a key component in addressing the issues of sexual violence and harassment.

Under the reproductive category, most attention was given to abortion and pregnancy, jointly accounting for around 75 per cent of all items under this category. Topics such as birth control hardly got any coverage (six stories over a three month period) showing that the unmet needs of Indian youth around contraception are reflected in press coverage too. 
The study has demonstrated that LGBT issues get marginal coverage in the Indian media (only 34 news items during the study period – out of which 25 were published in English-language newspapers). Within this category, lesbian women and bisexuals appear to be furthermarginalized with hardly any coverage for both these communities. Around half of the stories classified under the LGBT category focused on transgender persons. The official recognition of third gender in India in 2014 could be responsible for this attention although the overall numbers are still too low to be able to demonstrate any significant change.

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