“Double tragedy for rape victim”

Date: June 7, 2012
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Name: Double tragedy for rape victim

Name of publication: The Sunday Mail

Name of journalist: Phyllis Kachere

Date: 18-24 September 2011

Country: Zimbabwe

Theme: HIV/AIDS; Gender Violence, young women

Skills: Perspective, captions, accuracy, headline

Genre: Feature

Gem classification: Gender Aware

Rape is one form of gender violence that affects more women than men. This type of violence not only infringes on women and girls’ rights but also exposes them to HIV, a virus that causes Aids. The perpetrators of this form of violence must at all cost face the law and police have a crucial role to play in the justice process. This case study analyses an article in which a girl, 18, who was raped and infected with the virus while she was 15. Shockingly, the police have not yet arrested the rapist despite knowing his whereabouts.

The headline, sombre in nature highlights two main issues in the story; Miriam, a girl who was raped and infected with HIV and police’s negligence to arrest the perpetrator. The headline, accompanied by two sub-headlines reflects what is contained in the story fairly.

Two females and two male sources were interviewed in the article. The voices of two women directly affected by the rape incident dominated in the article. By giving them more space, almost three quarters of the story, the article has more impact as it provides details of the ordeal. The sources make the article so emotional, which is the main essence of such a feature story. The accounts of men in the article are used somewhat differently as they are either silent, the case of the police officers who do not comment further or give reasons on why the perpetrator has not been brought to justice. On the other hand, men are giving statistical evidence on the reported cases of STIs in the region (the hospital matron, Mr. Sithole, who said that Birchenough Bridge hospital is treating roughly 10 cases of STIs every day). However, the reporter could have gone further to interview gender/human rights activist who would probably comment on the delayed justice. This could then assist in follow up by the media and also activists to ensure that justice is served. This would further make the media be part of the solution to this issue. Nevertheless, the use of sources in the story make the article gender aware in as far gender-balance of sources is concerned.


Considering the nature of the article, the reporter uses descriptive and emotional language to put across the message that the young woman deserves justice. The reporter further uses strong verbs such as “tragedy, horror and ravaged” to emphasise the gravity of the issue. Implicitly, the reporter is urging the police to take action by arresting the culprit.
However, the reporter uses the word matron as a title for Mr Sithole yet he is a man. This word is used mostly when referring to a senior female nurse.

Visual Images

The images illustrate the content of the story clearly and fairly. The pictures illustrate the content of the story fairly and make it more believable than if it were told using different pictures or without pictures.

Story angle

The article predominantly illustrates the voices of women quoted in the article. From the onset of the article to fifteenth paragraph, the writer allows the survivor and her mother to narrate the ordeal and their expectation from the incident. The reporter sought the comment from the police but was not successful. However, a comment from the police on why the perpetrator has not been brought to book would have added value to the story and prompted a follow-up. The reporter interviewed a hospital official in the area who commented by giving statistics of sexually transmitted infections the hospital is receiving. This not only increases the depth of the article but also add value to how the media reports on HIV and AIDS. In this regard, the writer of the article can be commended for the use of statistical data, as well as the police crime record number that Miriam was given when she reported her case. These make the story more credible.
To show the gravity of the issue, the reporter brings to light the hurdles that the survivor and her mother are going through while taking care of this “infected” girls. This further tells the police to exercise their powers and bring to book the perpetrator.

Placement and positioning
The story was on page 10 under the features page. Though inside, the issue was given prominence in the sense that it was a feature article and it was considerably given more space than if it were tackled as a news story or news brief.

Training exercises
1. What are ethical issues to be considered when reporting on HIV and AIDS?
2. How do pictures reinforce media story telling?
3. Why is it important to acknowledge in the article that you contacted a relevant source(s) to the story though they denied commenting?
4. This is a sensitive story and one that demonstrates police negligence. How can justice be served in this case?

Other training resources
– Gender and Media Progress Study: Coverage of gender violence
– The war at home: gender based violence indicators project
HIV and AIDS and Gender Baseline Study



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