Zimbabwe has a high prevalence of sexual gender based violence (GBV) and rape is one such form. This article examines the portrayal of incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the media with a specific focus on The Chronicle, 2014. Rape, in this article also includes gang rape and infant rape, among others.
De-emphasis of the perpetrator
Newspapers habitually pay no attention to the role of the rapists and this makes them implicitly complicit. The portrayal of rape in The Chronicle presents viable examples of the ways rapists’ role and responsibility for rape is often ignored thereby reinforcing rape culture by indirectly placing the blame of the incident on the victim. Rapists and abusers are absolved of their criminal offences through the reporters’ portrayal of incidents.
The article titled ‘Sex Starved Teenager Rapes Niece’ (June 26) states that the boy was ‘sex starved’. This headline is not only wreckless but it is void of any gender and child sensitivity. It almost seems as though it seeks to justify the rape of the girl as well as condone the rape of the minor male perpetrator by refering to his abuse as sex.
Another article in the same paper titled ‘Man 57 offers girl 6 money for sex’, not only suggests that the sex was acceptable as it was a business transaction, as though between equals, but it further iterates the point that the victim was cheated into believing that a dollar was $5. This is an example of irresponsible journalism as it not only implies that the child is a prostitute with the faculties of an adult but that had the rapist actually given the victim a five dollar note, he would have been vindicated of his crime. Such headlines are manipulations and misrepresentations of facts which absolve sex offenders of their guilt in the more serious offence as they recentre the issue by redirecting focus.
In another article headline, ‘Son gives away rapist father,’ (June 18) the statement ‘son gives away’, makes it appear as though it would have been better had the boy concealed the truth. In another article titled ‘Woman Pleads for Rapist Hubby’s release’ (June 13), the reporter emphasises that the victim was not raped but had consented. In addition, it almost gives the impression that because the perpetrator’s wife has come to his defence, he must therefore get leniency. The reporter does so by mentioning the victim’s many boyfriends, that she had approached her father in the bedroom and that she had ‘agreed’ to the act. Apart from justifying the criminal act, the article also questions the victim’s morality and blames her for provoking the criminal.
The Chronicle, intentionally or unintentionally instils certain perceptions about rape which may be harmful to the victims because in most instances there is always a justification of some sort for the acts of rape. It is therefore necessary that gender is mainstreamed in journalism training therefore improving journalists’coverage of GBV.