Improved coverage of violence against girls in African media needed, study reveals
Action Aid International has released its second quarterly media survey on violence against girls in schools in 18 African countries for the period from October to December 2009.
This media survey aims to compile and review cases of violence against girls as reported in selected national media. One of the main objectives is to improve media treatment of violence against girls by encouraging analytical treatment rather than sensationalism. Figures for this quarter show that out of 195 articles listed in the 18 countries, only 32 were considered to be analytical. When reporting on rape, many newspapers portrayed it as an unusual perversion, when in fact it is an all too common crime. The study found that rape is typically reported in graphic detail “with an often very raw tone” that verges on pornographic. Action Aid defines violence against girls as any form of abuse against girls under 18 that hinders their access to education or their achievement at school. Such violence may occur at home in the form of excessive household chores, corporal punishment, ill-treatment, rapes, genital mutilations and other traditional practices harmful to girls. It may occur also at school, in terms of punishments, discrimination, physical and verbal abuse. Obviously, violence against girls also takes place on the street. Amongst others, the study noted cases of rape, incest, early pregnancies, early forced marriages, sexual tourism, prostitution, HIV infection, forced labour or gender-based selection before birth and genital mutilation. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 130 million girls and women are survivors of sexual mutilation, particularly in Africa, where it is practised in 26 countries. Action Aid data found that from July to December 2009, 4,292 cases of violence against girls took place in the 18 countries involved in this survey but only 322 were published in the newspapers selected. The majority of cases were reported during school holidays in September and October. Sexual violence is very frequent in this period because girls are left on their own, without the care of their parents or supervision at school. During the period studied, international organisations focused on two events: the World Children’s Day on 20 November and the 16 days on violence against women and girls from 25 November to 10 December. Many activities were organized to increase awareness about violence against girls and to appeal for the protection of young survivors. Unfortunately, the media coverage of these activities was minimal. Newspapers included in the survey were published in Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.