Using The Media To Stem Intimate Partner Violence



affail_monney12The media plays a crucial role in shaping the world, and journalists’ words have  lasting impact on people’s behaviours and thinking.

The concept of Construction of Reality allows the media to act as a socialising agent by constructing reality and then disseminating it to the mass public. Thus “social” element comes into play when upon receiving the media’s “reality” message the vast majority agree to and accept it as true or real.

Without question, therefore, the Social Construction of Realities naturally includes the ideas of socialisation by which individuals make sense of the world through the media.

Thus, if what is called Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence (IPSV) is still on-going in the country with its severe forms of physical, sexual and psychological abuses, then it means the media are working less in that regard and, therefore, need to review their agenda setting role.

VIOLATIONS

A World Health Organisation (WHO) multi country study has revealed that between 15 and71 per cent of women aged between 15 and  49 years reported physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner at some points in their lives.

According to the study, IPSV, mostly against women, causes major health problems and violations of women’s human rights across the globe.

The IPSV results in physical, sexual, reproductive health problems, including induced abortion, serious gynecological and other health problems which could increase vulnerability to contracting HIV.

Women suffer isolation, they are unable to work, and they are mostly unable to participate in regular activities and often have limited ability to care for themselves and their children. According to the WHO study, risk factors for being a perpetrator of IPSV include low education, past exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family.

It again showed that the risk factors for being a victim of IPSV include witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.

If low education as one of the risk factors of IPSV is anything to go by, then it means the media still has more work doing to educate or sensitise the mass public to eschew domestic violence, including IPSV.

Weak legal sanctions for sexual violence could be made stronger if the media amplify their voices on IPSV issues. There have been legislation and several other policies drawn to protect women’s rights in the country and yet domestic violence mostly against women still goes on.

Non-governmental organisations, government agencies, and the gender ministry among others have come out in diverse ways to advocate for the protection of women’s rights. others have embarked on public sensitisation to educate men and women about domestic violence and other human rights violations yet abuse exists in the society.

Abuse’ has become ubiquitous word but the reality is that it is still on the increase and this calls for the media to work harder and swiftly to wet its feathers.

In this information age, if there exists a societal ill, it is the media that can efficiently clean it off from the society with the power of constructing ‘realities’.

That is why more organisations depend on the media to carry their messages across to all parts of the country. Simply put, without the media an organisation’s message cannot get down to the people.

The ARK Foundation, with funding from the African Women Development Fund (AWDF), organised a workshop for journalists in the Eastern Region to urge them to increase reportage on IPSV in the country.

Ms Marian Atta-Boahene, Deputy Executive Director of the ARK Foundation, underscored the need for the media to intensify education on IPSV to save partners whose human rights were being abused.

She remarked that the Ghanaian media were doing well in reporting some violations against the vulnerable in the society but “there is still more you can do; you need to make follow ups on cases,” adding that “journalists should develop more interest in covering abuse within relationships since nearly 12 million of women and three million men are suffering every year across the world.”

Ms Atta-Boahene said in failing to describe an abusive relationship and in failing to locate a story involving domestic abuse, the media might prevent a woman or man from identifying their own relationship as abusive.

That, she said, could consequently delay victims’ contact with support services and urged the media to go the extra mile. The ball is in our court, media.   By McAnthony Dagyenga

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