SEX workers in Bulawayo have bemoaned what they termed misrepresentation in the mainstream media, citing negative coverage as increasing their discrimination in society.
Speaking during a media workshop conducted by Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) on Monday, programmes officer Unoziba Utenga said they were seeking more positive reporting that identified sex workers as human beings and normal people.
BY TALENT GUMPO/ SHARON SIBINDI
“We organised this platform to engage journalists in an effort to promote more positive reportage of sex workers in a manner that does not dehumanise them. The media always has stories that portray us in bad light, creating animosity between society and sex workers,” she said.
Utenga said sex workers were plying the trade for sustenance and must be treated like people in any other profession.
“We have invited journalists to come and hear the stories from us to avoid cases of sensationalising news articles about us and portraying us as people who are, for example, spreading HIV and Aids because we practice safe sex unlike what is usually said in the papers”.
SRC legal support officer Sipho Khumalo said sex workers were plying the trade to earn a living, but have been made an object of ridicule exacerbated by their negative portrayal in the media.
“Societies have not accepted us because when they think of a sex worker they see a person with loose morals, but that is not who we are, we are like any other person, we have families that we fend for and some of us here have raised and educated children up to degree level using money earned from sex work, but you never see such stories in the newspapers,” Khumalo said.
Speaking on behalf of journalists, Tinomuda Chakanyuka from Sunday News said the workshop was an eye opener.
“It was an eye opener, particularly on the plight of sex workers. Such engagements help debunk myths and stereotypesassociated with sex work. It opens up debate on a lot of issues around sex work and constant engagement will help us find common ground,” he said.
Asked how he thinks the media/journalists can go about without stereotyping the sex workers, Chankanyuka said: “Use of sex work sensitive language, portrayal of sex workers in a positive light in a way that changes the narrative around sex work.”
Barney Masimba, a freelance journalist, said while he acknowledged what the sex workers had said if he wrote anything positive about the sex workers, his story would not sell because their trade was taboo and obscene in our culture.
Sexual Rights Centre is a human rights organisation that works with key populations that include sex workers, lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual and intersex community in advocating for their sexual rights.