Media urged to change gender perceptions

WOMEN'S rights groups have called on the media to play an active role in reversing perceptions believed to be perpetuating violence against women.

Speaking at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Children campaign, held under the theme "Media part of the problem or part of the solution", representatives of various gender groups spoke of how some coverage of gender-based news could have had a different outcome had it been handled differently.

Gender Links spokesperson Kubi Rama highlighted a number of situations in which news coverage of events were unbalanced.

Rama said stories of gender-based violence were usually reported in the inside pages of publications, while crimes such as hijacking and robberies were on the front pages.

Rama said stories of rape or violence against women sometimes implied the victims were to blame.

Referring to a story that was published in Sowetan on December 3 2008 about a woman who was burnt with acid for rejecting her former lover, Rama criticised the the story for blaming and belittling the woman.

Highlighting another story about a man who was treated at Tembisa Hospital after being allegedly sexually assaulted for two days by four women after he hitched a ride from Polokwane (Sowetan, October 16 2008), Rama again criticised the headline titled "Man hospitalised after being kept as a sex slave".

While she emphasised that rape was rape irrespective of whether the victim was a male or female, she questioned why it was that when women were raped they were victims but when men were raped they were sex slaves.