Since the 1960s, the women's movement has been engaged in a systematic and constant critique of media institutions and their output. Women's representation in the media helps to keep them in a position of relative powerlessness. The term 'symbolic annihilation', coined by George Gerbner in 1972, became a powerful and widely used metaphor to describe the ways in which media images render women invisible. This 'mediated' invisibility is achieved not simply through the non-representation of women's points of view or perspectives on the world. When women are 'visible' in media content, the manner of their representation reflects the biases and assumptions of those who define the public - and therefore the media - agenda. Despite measures to redress gender imbalances, the power to define public and media agendas is still mainly a male privilege.

Gender must be brought within the scope of human rights. Every case of insensitive/invisible/partial writing/reporting is as much a violation of human rights as it is of gender rights. I will illustrate this with the help of one ancient text, the Mahabharat and reporting on one contemporary incident, the curfew during the Gujarat riots in the mid-Eighties. The context is the politics of knowledge in a patriarchal society, and I will briefly elaborate on this first.

Gender, politics, knowledge

Patriarchy established and perpetuated the myth that men make knowledge and women keep and maintain traditions.