Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

Christopher Vourlias

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DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence.

That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was presented at the Durban FilmMart this week by Kubi Rama of Gender Links, a Southern Africa women’s organization that champions gender quality in and through the media. The report was part of the Step It Up For Gender Equality in Southern Africa media project, which was commissioned in 2018 by the German Development Corporation (GIZ) and UN Women.

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“The media landscape in South Africa is still largely unequal when it comes to gender questions,” said Unathi Malunga, of the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF). “The aim of this project is to support the prevention of violence against women and girls through engaging the South African media to reflect on the media’s role and responsibility in shaping societal norms, in shaping societal stereotypes, and in shaping perceptions of gender-based violence.”

According to the findings of the report, which describes gender-based violence as a “national crisis” in South Africa, gender inequality and gender-based violence as topics constitute just 3% of news, 7% of entertainment and 3% of children’s programming. Women comprise 77% of program creators but just 15% of directors in TV entertainment. And in a largely patriarchal society, according to the report, “gender stereotypes are still prevalent, women’s voices are heard less, and decision-making still lies with men.”

“An industry that is shaped in inequality and incidences of harassment will always struggle to produce creative content that has a positive social impact,” said Malunga. “There is still a lack of awareness and dialogue on gender-based violence. There’s still a lack of legislative frameworks, there’s a lack of legal resource, there’s a lack of prevention mechanisms and where to go to get help, and also rehabilitation.”

According to South Africa’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey, one in five South African women over the age of 18 has experienced physical violence at least once in her lifetime. An average of 100 rapes are reported daily, and three women die at the hands of their intimate partners every day—a rate that is four times the global average.

Another key finding of the report notes that “news media waits for a violent incident to occur and cover it, rather than to shed light on underlying causes and drivers.” The report suggests an industry-wide focus on “how to improve ways of reporting on preventative interventions and methods.”

Speaking in Durban, Malunga said that the NFVF, as well as government bodies, civil society organizations, broadcasters and NGOs, are all implementing interventions to combat the negative messaging around gender in South African media. Despite their efforts, she said, “there’s still plenty of work to do.”

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