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Journalists enrich knowledge of ethical reporting on gender-based violence

Media practitioners from line ministries on Monday attended a seminar held in Vientiane to enrich knowledge of ethical reporting on gender-based violence, a severe violation of human rights.

The seminar also saw the presence of Vice President of the Lao Women’s Union Sirikit Boupha, Dr Tej Ram Jat, UNFPA Representative a.i and O.I.C and representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“To report ethically on incidents of GBV that empowers the survivor of violence, you can raise awareness in the community on GBV and how to prevent and respond to it, you can promote gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said LWU Vice President Sirikit Boupha, adding that the media plays a critical role in raising public awareness of GBV, documenting practices and shining a light on different issues or practices.

“Media coverage of GBV can be a double-edged sword – it can either give voice to survivors and protect future victims of GBV OR it can further harm survivors of violence and discourage others from speaking out. Therefore, it is extremely important for reporters to be aware of ethical dilemmas and uphold ethical principles when reporting on GBV by using a survivor-centered approach. Any story you tell must avoid stereotypes, not lay blame on the survivor of violence, use judgement-free language and create a safe environment for other survivors to tell their story,” said Ms. Sirikit Boupha.

Victims of gender-based violence can suffer physical consequences, such as injuries, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions or sexually transmitted infections – STI. They often frequently suffer emotional damage that can last a lifetime, as well as being blamed or treated poorly by their communities.

Globally one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, primarily by their intimate partners.

In the Lao PDR, the 2014 National Study on Violence against Women (VAW) found the same – about one in three women who had ever been in a relationship had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partners.

This is because GBV is accepted and normalised by both men and women – the LSIS found that almost a third of women in Laos believe it is justified for a man to hit his wife, and in some provinces such as Attapeu, Oudomxay and Phongsaly, this jumped to almost half of women, according to the LWU Vice President.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of GBV has increased. This is evident by the Lao Women’s Union hotline data showing that the number of calls to hotlines during the strict lockdowns increased 3-5 times.

Even in a normal situation before COVID-19, the culture of silence in many parts of the world, including Laos, makes it even more challenging for survivors to seek help and journalists to report on GBV.

Less than 2% of women who reported experiencing violence in the VAW study formally reported the violence to some kind of authority, like LWU or the police.

For several years, UNFPA and the Government of the Lao PDR have been collaborating on innovative media workshops to build the capacity of journalists of LWU and media agencies across different areas around gender, women’s empowerment, gender-based violence, and harmful practice, including early marriage.

Source: Lao News Agency