Journalists Urged To Be Truthful In Reporting Sexuality Issues

By Abiose Adelaja Adams

A non – governmental organization, Projekthope, has called on the media to always  report stories from human rights perspective as this is in accordance with the ethics of the profession and acceptable global standard.

Speaking at a two-day training on “Gender and Sexuality Reporting” in Lagos on Tuesday, Steve Aborishade, executive director of the group, observed that there is a lot of falsehood, bias, wrong perceptions, insensitivity as well as fabrication and concoction of stories by some media practitioners in reporting gender and sexuality.

“We monitored nine newspapers and two magazines over a period of six months. What we saw was a skill deficit in these areas, so we thought to increase capacity of journalists,” he said.

Gender and Sexuality issues, according the workshop theme, bother on rape, HIV, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence but with a special focus on sexual minorities such as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersex (all categorized as LGBTI).

“The media is completely ignorant of gender and sexuality. As a result of this disinterest, there is little consideration for professional ethics and there is a lot of stigma, discrimination and rights infringement of this minority.”

Some of the workshop trainers highlighted the consequences of inaccurate reporting on this group, including fuelling spread of HIV, high rates of domestic violence and police brutality and infringement of human rights.

“The sexual orientations of this group pose a threat to the general public in terms of the spread of HIV,” says Florita Dureke from an NGO called New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society.

“Gays practice anal sex and HIV is easily transmitted through this means,” she explains.

“Naturally, the vaginal lubricates naturally, but the anus doesn’t. As a result, the men bruise themselves in the act of penetrating the anus thus bloodsheds which increases the risk of transmission.”

It is noteworthy that HIV was first discovered among homosexual community in 1959 according to researches.

From her research work, Dureke gathered that in a survey among men having sex with men (MSM), HIV prevalence is 17.1 per cent and 50 per cent of these men are married and have infected their wives at home.

“This is why we must report them,” Aborishade observed.

Taking a look at the Nigerian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality, the national coordinator of Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, and a human rights activist, Chino Obiagwu, said this has led to a lot of human rights abuses.

“You see the Police infringing of people’s rights, invading privacy of individuals thought to be gays or belong to gay clubs.

The Anti-Gay (Same Sex Prohibition) Law states: “Anyone who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature commits an unnatural offence, a felony punishable on conviction with a fourteen-year prison term.

“That term…’Order of nature’…is confusing, vague and redundant. And because it is vague, it can be misused and it is being misused everyday by gang-up groups, vigilantes groups and the police. As a human rights lawyer, I have cases where these people have beaten up gays, arrest them and invade their privacy,” Obiagwu stated

Furthermore the law prohibits a “public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly,” the violation of which upon conviction is punishable by ten years of imprisonment.

Obiagwu reasoned that “there is really no reason to draft and anti-gay law in the first place because already in Section 5 of the Marriage Act, marriage is recognized to be between men and women.

He states further: that “there are other intentions of this law which we do not know, that is why we are interrogating the law.”

Speaking to 24 participating made up of journalists, gay groups and faculty members, Obiagwu declared that the Anti-Gay legislation “contradicts the law on Right to Privacy as enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution.”

“How can you check someone’s sexual life without invading in the person’s privacy,’ he wondered.

The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act which was passed by President Goodluck Jonathan in January 2013 also states that the “registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings is prohibited.”

Violation of this provision is punishable on conviction by a ten-year prison term.

Another facilitator, Olusola Owonikoko, a sexuality educator, is of the opinion that inaccurate reporting of homosexuals is linked to domestic

violence.






     

     

    “In a research of why some men beat their wives, it is found that the men are bisexuals, that means they also have male sex partners. But they got married to satisfy societal demands of having a family but deep down they are not happy with their wives. They see her as a man, so this can lead to frustrations and violence in the home,” Owonikoko adds.

    The training, which is funded by Canadian department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, hopes to assist journalists pursue related stories and produce a guidebook thereafter.

    “I am not expecting views to change instantly about perception of sexual minorities,” said Aborishade.

    “But we have been able to build capacity of the media to have a better understanding. For the sake of the ethics of the profession, we have an obligation to tell the truth at all times,” he added.

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