Property grabbing violates women’s rights

Date: August 15, 2012
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Name of the article: Property grabbing led me into prostitution

Name of publication: The Nation

Name of journalist: Samuel Chibaya

Date: 23 December 2011

Country: Malawi

Theme: Sex work, gender violence

Skills: Sources and perspective

Genre: Features

Gem classification: Gender blind

Property grabbing in Malawi is illegal. However, in a case where a will is absent, widows and children are left destitute after the loss of a father. Mostly, relations to the deceased man grab away almost all the property. This leaves the bereaved dependents helpless. Children, particularly girls suffer the most and they are mostly forced into doing things that endanger their lives. This media highlight analyses a feature story published in the Nation Newspaper which shares a real life experience of a woman who was forced into sex work because of property grabbing.

The headline is gender insensitive as it uses “prostitution” a word that has a negative connotation. Sex work is the right word instead. Chances are that the story was shared to the author in vernacular and translation was done without serious thought on its impact. However, the headline can be commended for highlighting property grabbing since this is the issue that forces this woman into sex work.


The article spoke to one source Jane Mustafa who shares her life story. Much as the source makes the article more credible, the piece is shallow and does not have a clear perspective because of the missing voices. Whilst sex work is illegal in Malawi, activists believe that the ban negatively impacts on persons practicing it. The journalist could have interviewed activists to comment on the banning of sex work form a human rights perspective.

Further, the headline of the article raises the issue of property grabbing and how it forced the subject to sex work. Property grabbing is a serious gender issue in Malawi and most women and children are left destitute after the death of the husband. The reporter could have interviewed human rights/gender experts to highlight problems faced by children and widows as a result of this malpractice. Property grabbing is a gender issue and interviewing the above mentioned experts would have informed the reader what is being done or has been done to curb the malpractice. In this case, the media would have fulfilled its core functions of informing and educating its readers.

Apart from the word “prostitute”, the article used gender neutral language

Visual Images
The picture and caption are both relevant to the article. The picture gives a face to the story and the caption answer the question of how Mustafa found herself in the business without having to read the story.

Story angle
In the article, Mustafa shares her own story making the article credible. In Malawi, it is not easy to have a sex worker, retired or not who can share their story. A news story like this helps move people’s negative perceptions towards sex workers. Mustafa speaks of how she managed to find love after having slept with not less than 200 men according to the article. By sharing this information, Mustafa is telling people that sex work is just like any other profession and a person can choose to quit and move on with life just like anyone else.

Nevertheless, the headline of the article introduces an interesting subject which could have made a better angle of piece if it were pursued further – property grabbing. Property grabbing negatively affects women and children after the demise of the husband in the family.

Further, the article hints that the story was sourced during a media tour with National Aids Commission (NAC) but the reporter does not speak to any official from the organisation.

Placement and positioning
The article was accorded prominence as it took a whole features page.

Training excursive
– How do the missing voices affect the article’s perspective and depth?
– If you were asked to rewrite this article, what could be your news angle and why?
– How does your country’s constitution say about sex work? Write an article highlighting how the law affects se workers’ rights in your country?
– Why is it necessary to use multiple sources when writing for the media?

Other training resources

– Gender & Media Diversity Journal issue 7, “Gender, economic empowerment and 2010,” pp 52
– Gender & Media Diversity Journal issue 7, “Pimp my ride for 2010: Sex work, legal reform and HIV/Aids,” pp 80



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