Responsible journalism? Reporting on gender

Responsible journalism? Reporting on gender

Date: December 9, 2010
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Sex or rape? Something is terribly wrong!
By Colleen Lowe Morna

On the eve of the Sixteen Days of Activism 2010, the news is awash with the Jules High School incident, that some call “sex”, others “rape”, others “alleged rape”. The confusion and conflation of sex and rape – apparent also in the famous rape trial of President Jacob Zuma two years ago- is a glaring reminder that something in our society is terribly wrong.

In the Jules High School case, we are told that boys drugged a 15 year old girl, but in the same breath that she consented to sex. In the course of a fortnight, one newspaper ran these three contradictory headlines: “Girl in video was willing”; then (after an exclusive interview with the girl) “I was not in control after taking drink”; but a week later, “Girl admits to consensual sex.”

The girl laid a charge of rape, only to find herself charged with rape through some bizarre twist of the Sexual Offences Act that makes it a crime to have sex with a girl below the age of 16, but makes her equally guilty if she consents.

She stands before a magistrate and says she did in fact consent. What would be the consequences if she did not say this? What are the choices? To go to jail (for raping herself?) or to face an agonising trial in which the cards are stacked against her? Even the president of the country got away with saying he did not force a young woman who regarded him as her father to have sex with him when she remains adamant that she said no!

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Of rice and men

By Jennifer Elle Lewis

Multi-millionaire Kenny Kunene celebrated his 40th birthday party in style when he hired five models to wear lingerie, cover themselves in body paint, and one model to lay half-naked with sushi strategically placed over her markedly unpainted body.

What might have only been just another “gigÀ for these models marked a bourgeois show of wealth and abandon for Kunene. And the media have eaten it up.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, has criticised Kunene for “spitting in the face of the poor” by spending R700, 000 on this lavish spread.   But aside from “spitting in the face of the poor,À what about spitting in the face of women? Or in this case, possibly drooling on their thighs and stomach.

Vavi stated: “It’s the sight of these parties where the elite display their wealth, often secured by questionable methods, that turns my stomach.À Vavi never once cited women’s rights or gender equality in this outpouring of disgust.

Kunene responded to Vavi, slating apartheid and race as arguments for his actions:
You say that my so-called R700, 000 party is a “corruption of moralityÀ and that I’m “spitting in the face of the poorÀ…You remind me of what it felt like to live under apartheid: you are telling me, a black man, what I can and cannot do with my life…You are narrow-minded and still think that it’s a sin for black people to drive sports cars or be millionaires at a young age. You make my stomach turn.

In all of this, it seems that socio-economic issues and racial oppression is more important than the ever-consistent oppression of women. I would even argue that the “struggleÀ that Vavi nobly fights excludes women. While Kunene might feel he is staking a claim on his rights, these women are merely decorations and serving platters in the world he has created to prove his arrival to the international elite.

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