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Media distortion

The IPU is concerned about the perpetuation of sexual stereotypes insofar as they are an obstacle on the way to the partnership between men and women which it advocates as a path to democracy. The Union thus encourages the media to become aware of and avoid contributing to this phenomenon.

This concern has been expressed in numerous resolutions and in the Plan of Action to correct present imbalances in the participation of men and women in political life which points out that the media can help to instill among the public the idea that women's participation in political life is an essential part of democracy (and) can also take care to avoid giving negative or minimizing images of women and their determination and capacity to participate in politics, stressing the importance of women's role in economic and social life and in the development process in general. The Plan states that any stereotyped presentation of the image of women by any media should be prohibited by law. It encourages the media to publicize the contributions that women have made to the development process of human civilization and history.

Immediately after the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, September 1995), Women Parliamentarians within the IPU decided to concentrate, at each of their future meetings held on the occasion of statutory Conferences, on one of the critical areas of concern in the "Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action". The first such area to have been debated by women parliamentarians was that of the impact of the media on the status of women.

In November 1989 and again in February 1997, the IPU organised Round Tables on the Image of Women Politicians in the Media (the second Round Table took place in the context of the Conference "Towards Partnership Between Men and Women in Politics", New Delhi). The two events involved an equal number of male and female media representatives and politicians. In both, the eternal love-hate relationship between the media and the politicians and the mutual poor understanding of the priorities and concerns of one party by the other were an underlying element of the debate.


  • The media have a crucial and increasing role in shaping the image of politicians. Instead of acting as mere mirrors of the social and cultural traditional patterns, the media should become an agent of change through their approach to women or rather to gender at large.
  • Media personnel at all levels, from editor to reporter, from publisher to columnist, should be made aware of the fact that "stories" that sell or pretend to do so often perpetuate gender patterns which are adverse to the strengthening of democracy.
  • In a world in which financing is crucial in politics, good media coverage compensates for a lack of financial resources.
  • Women politicians have to understand the media better and learn how to get their message across through training on how to conduct media interviews and press conferences, make presentations, prepare press kits and communiqués, etc..
  • Women have to be more assertive in presenting their ideas and achievements as in fact, irrespective of sex, the media tend to come to people who stand tall and believe in their cause.
  • The media tend to treat women politicians as women and objects rather than as political protagonists, something they rarely do for male politicians.
  • Women politicians are not covered by the media as much as men politicians. Reporters should, when covering stories, ensure that they not interview male politicians only.
  • The media are less open to the concerns and achievements of women politicians than to those of their male counterparts.
  • If they understand that the integration of women into politics strengthens democracy, the media, which have a crucial and increasing role in the democratic process, should try to convey this message in all possible ways.
  • Governments should restructure their communications policy so as to make them more gender sensitive and also to promote a fairer image of women politicians.
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