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Experts highlight how media can report gender-based violence better

...calls for promotion in accountability to enhance gender justice

News reporting of violence against women and girls suicide in Nigeria has increased substantially in recent times; media should help in the prevention by not publicising stereotypes, attitudes, and norms about women and girls that promotes violence against women and girls as it associated with increased numbers of violence say, experts.

In a webinar on the role of the media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls organized by Spotlight Initiative as part of their activities to mark the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) day, These experts say media should help in the role in reporting and sharing narratives surrounding Women and Girls through amplifying their voices by speaking truth to power, promoting accountability, and enhancing gender justice.

However, they urged that the media plays a crucial role in putting issues on the agenda and in raising awareness at all levels of society and could report by reaching vulnerable populations in their own language and empower vulnerable audiences by encouraging help-seeking and normalizing mental health problems.

“It is the role of the media to change negative social norms on violence against women and girls and to raise awareness against the violence to shaping the public opinion and discourse in order to promote justice for survivors to influence behaviors including the young people,” said Olasunbo Odebode, Child Protection Specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

According to Odebode, media content can reproduce gender stereotypes that associate a male identity with violence, domination, independence, aggression, and power, while women are depicted as emotional, vulnerable, and sensitive, and dependent upon male actions.

“Data on violence against women and girls in Nigeria reveals that 31 percent of Nigerian Women have experienced physical violence, 6 percent have experienced physical violence during Pregnancy while 20 percent of Women and Girls are circumcised before the age of 5.”

“9 percent of 1 in 4 girls have experienced sexual violence and 19 percent of girls get married before the age of 15. Violence is rarely an isolated incident. The majority of children surveyed witnessed violence in the home and women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence in any form,” she said.

Odebode added that for children, perpetrators are people that are known to them from parent, caregiver, teacher, and neighbor and for women, perpetrators are mostly spouses and intimate partners who about 36 percent of ever-married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence in the hand of their spouses.

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“The driver of violence against women and girls in Nigeria includes Negative socio- cultural norms around gender with the low status of women and children, especially girls, Harmful practices, low educational and economic status, cultural silence, taboo and shame,” she said.

However, the media promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls is in commemoration of 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The 16 Days of Activism ends on 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

“Breaking the culture of silence is one of the most important ways of creating an enabling environment for women to speak out and report cases of gender-based violence. Far too often, issues of gender-based violence are silenced in fear for the reaction of family members and society,” said EU Ambassador, Ketil Karlsen, represented by Clement Boutillier.

According to him, the majority of women who have experienced sexual or physical violence in Nigeria did not seek help or support.

“We would be reminded that for every case reported, many go unreported. This is not only a Nigerian issue but a global problem.

“The media plays a crucial role in putting issues on the agenda and in raising awareness at all levels of society. Media has a wide reach, also reaching vulnerable populations in their own language and via accessible media like radios,” said Karlsen.

Karlsen emphasised that the media plays an important role in shaping narratives, while at the same time; misinformation is more widespread than ever before. This is not only a problem in Nigeria but across the world.

He added that the media has a role to hold decision-makers to account for the many great commitments that have been made over the past few months.

“So media houses have a professional responsibility to be sensitive to issues of GBV, to speak out and to report on GBV cases appropriately, while protecting the identity of victims and being careful not to do harm to survivors.

Only together we can break the culture of silence. Because in 2020, it should no longer be acceptable that persistent socio-cultural norms and values sustain a culture of SGBV and hamper victims from seeking justice,” said Karlsen.

In commitment, Garba Shehu, Presidential Spokesman said the Nigerian government is fully committed to free, open and independent mass communication system in the country both online and offline mass media and will also protect the freedom of expression.

However, Garba stated that Government is also concerned about contents that threatens National security, bullies, harasses and affects the safety of women and children, minorities, ethnic religions amongst others.

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