10 April 2006

Zimbabwe: Media Coverage: Women Get Raw Deal

THE Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ) says it is worried by the limited coverage that gender issues are attracting and the negative portrayal of women in media reports, a situation that has stalled efforts to create a safe environment for women and girls.

This announcement follows a study undertaken by FAMWZ last year during the "16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence".

The study covered on nine newspaper titles, which include The Standard, The Chronicle, the Independent and Sunday Mirror.

The "16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence" (November 25-December 10) is an international campaign, which originated from the need to effectively campaign against all forms of violence against women.

During the 16-day period, other important events such as International Human Rights' Day and World Aids' Day (1 December) are observed.

This was done deliberately in order to symbolically link violence against women to these crucial dates.

According to the study the media appeared "gender insensitive" with coverage about women mostly being in "negative" light.

In cases where rape or other forms of violence were reported, the media tended to blame the victims for their misfortunes.

As a result of this "seemingly condoning" attitude by the media, society is not taking the rights of women and girls as seriously as it should and this is what is fuelling gender-based violence, the report says.

FAMWZ also said this poor coverage of women was weighing down their efforts to create a gender sensitive society.

During a presentation of the study FAMWZ national director, Sinikiwe Msipa-Ndebele, said: "Gender violence tends to get more coverage especially in cases where incidents are bizarre, gross or put women in bad light. In most cases gender-based violence is treated as less important in the news hierarchy."

She said the study revealed that stereotyping characterised the majority of news reports, most of which are extracted from courts.

According to the study, types of gender violence that received coverage were rape, sexual assault and child abuse at 13,3% and 18,7% respectively.

The victims of gender-based violence said the study, were mostly women at 86,7% while perpetrators were men at 83,9%.

The study bemoaned the emphasis of the stories because they blamed women for the violence they suffered.

Activists said it was time to uplift the status of women and hoped that the Domestic Violence Bill would address domestic violence.

The Standard Editor, Davison Maruziva, who was guest speaker at the occasion, applauded the study, describing it as a roadmap for future reporting on gender issues.

He said the study would help the media increase enlightened coverage of gender issues.

The President of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe, who attended the launch. Madzongwe said the Domestic Violence Bill was the "only way to go" and appealed to the media to raise awareness on gender issues in rural communities.

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