Half-Hearted Implementation of Leveson Recommendations is Missed Opportunity for Fair and Equal Representation of Women in the Media

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19 March 2013
Contact: Brendan Wynne, Media Officer, London
+ 44 (0) 207 304 6902

Equality Now, Eaves, Object and the End Violence Against Women Coalition welcome the decision by the UK government to implement at least the majority of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations – particularly in relation to permitting third-party complaints. However, we consider the currently proposed plan of implementation to be a missed opportunity.

Jacqui Hunt of Equality Now suggested: “Transparency and inclusion in recent negotiations with the press could have laid the foundation for a full and reasoned discussion on ways to address the demeaning images of women in some elements of the press.  It is deeply troubling that women’s equality as a fundamental principle of our democracy is being ignored in this debate.”

Despite an increased awareness of issues surrounding the representation of women in the media – and a better public understanding of how this affects women in everyday life – “the much-compromised plan does not provide any guidance about women’s equality in the new code; it does not propose that any representative of the equality sector might be part of the new body, and it has made no attempt to bring consistency between the broadcast watershed and print media in terms of sexually explicit material”, according to Holly Dustin of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

In his recommendations last November, Lord Justice Leveson suggested that there is evidence to show that the tabloid press often fails to show "respect for the dignity and equality of women”. However, the government continues to illustrate its lack of commitment to representing half of the UK population. Furthermore, it has also ignored several key domestic and international obligations regarding the treatment and portrayal of women in the media: As recently as last week, at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UK agreed with other governments “to develop and strengthen self-regulatory mechanisms [of the media] to promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women with a view to eliminating discrimination against and the exploitation of women and girls”.

We urge the UK government to seriously consider what steps it is taking to ensure respect for the dignity and equality of women in the press and call for decisive action to tackle endemic prejudicial reporting of women and violence against women and girls. Reducing women to sex objects and perpetuating rape myths and victim blaming attitudes has a very real impact on women’s participation in the public sphere and implications for male attitudes about inequality and violence against women.” said Sophie Bennett of Object.

"Poor representation of women in the media has caused barriers to women obtaining justice against violence, to hold political office, to play a public role and to develop healthy body images.  Promoting a more comprehensive portrayal of women would be a significant contribution that the government could – and is obliged to make,” according to Heather Harvey of Eaves.

March 19, 2013 - 12:45