Intimate partner violence – a scourge for HIV positive women

Date: December 7, 2012
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Name of article: Intimate partner violence – a scourge for HIV positive women

Name of publication: The Nation – online

Name of the journalist: Ephraim Nyondo

Date: 16 November 2012

Country: Malawi

Theme: Intimate partner violence

Skills: Language; use of data; sources; perspective

Genre: Feature

Gem classification: Blatant stereotype

A head of the 2012 16 Days of Activism campaign period, The Nation online newspaper published a story about an increase of intimate partner violence (IPV) among women living with HIV/Aids in Malawi. This media highlight provides a gender analysis of the story by critiquing the article’s perspective, its sources and language used among other things.

The headline is relevant and reflects the gist of the story fairly. It is relevant in the sense that it is summarising the content of the article. In addition, the title catches the readers’ attention in the sense that it links IPV and women living with HIV – an issue and a form of gender violence that is rarely reported about in the media.

The article uses two female primary sources and a secondary source. The piece largely centres on Marrieta Kandoje, (not her real name) an HIV positive woman who was abused by her husband despite her HIV status. Kandoje puts a human face to IPV issues – making the article credible. It is important to note also that the reporter abided by media ethics around reporting gender based violence and HIV/Aids by not revealing the real name of the source. GBV and HIV/Aids are sensitive issues and revealing the source’s real identity could probably have a psychologically impact on her. It is important that journalist should always seek the approval of HIV positive sources before using their names in the story.

Annie Banda is another primary source. She is the National Coordinator of Coalition of Women Living with HIV and Aids and she comments in the article as an authoritative source.

The article also quotes the research by the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and Aids. From the research findings, the reporter highlights the prevalence of IPV. The writer should be commended for giving sex disaggregated data on prevalence of IPV as this helps the reader to differentiate how women and men are being affected by IPV.

Further, men’s voices are missing in the article. Considering that they are a majority perpetrators according to the research findings, it was imperative to include their comments on the issue. For instance, the reporter would have tried to interview one of the male perpetrators of IPV in order to get their side of the story. In addition, the writer could have also interviewed a male official from Men for Gender Equality Now in Malawi – an organisation that engages men to end gender violence – to comment on this issue.

The article uses gender insensitive language conveying blatant stereotypes. For instance, the second paragraph of the article reads; “There must be something wrong with being born a woman.” In addition, the writer quotes the sources saying “it was my joy. You know how tough it is for a woman to live without a husband.” This suggests that women who do not have husbands are living difficult lives. This is not true. Further, the message in the image used is HIV/Aids insensitive. The messages allege that people should abstain and live for ever and that Aids is the killer. However this is not true in the sense that people do not only contract HIV through sex. In addition, some people living with HIV today contracted it because they were raped and not necessarily that they did not abstain. Further, HIV/Aids is a disease like any other and it is wrong to label it the “killer.”

Visual image
The story uses an image of HIV/Aids activists marching and carrying placards bearing messages urging people to abstain. The image is not very relevant to the article. It is not relevant in the sense that the article is talking about the plight of women living with HIV/Aids and yet the placards in the image bear messages of abstinence. Perhaps the reporter could have used an image of Kandoje with a blurred identity or marchers, but carrying placards with messages about HIV/Aids and IPV.

Story angle and perspective.

Overall, the article highlights the plight of women living with HIV and Aids. The article, with reference to a report by COWLHA indicates that IPV is on the increase among women living with HIV/Aids. The article features Kandoje, a woman who was abused by her husband after she tested HIV positive. Her voice dominates the article as she narrates what she went through after being found with HIV.

However, the article largely informs the reader as opposed to suggesting solutions to the problem. For instance, while the article informs the reader that IPV is on the rise, it does not suggest what the abused women should do. The article, through interviews and research could have suggested what women ought to do if they are abused by their spouses. Secondly, the article does not inform the reader how COWHLA will achieve its goal of preventing this form of violence from escalating and creating an enabling environment for the promotion of women’s rights. This does not only under inform the reader but also fails to fully inform other people or organisations that would wish to work with COWHLA on this course.

However, the story does not inform the reader the number of women and men that took part in the research. The reporter could have used sex disaggregated data as well as opposed to aggregated data. This does not fully inform the reader regarding the proportion of women to men in the research ample.

Training exercise
– What are some of the issues that journalists should be mindful of when reporting on HIV/Aids issues?
– List some of the HIV/Aids insensitive messages that campaigners should desist when messaging the pandemic?

Other training resources
Justice for survivors of marital rape, how far has SADC come?
When violence becomes normal
Media’s Role in Marital Rape


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