By Nita Bhalla
NAIROBI, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The swift sacking of three Kenyan radio presenters who suggested women were to blame for gender-based violence should serve as a catalyst for change in the country’s often sexist media, women’s campaigners said on Monday.
The three disc jockeys at Homeboyz Radio were fired at the weekend following outrage over their comments about an ongoing court case in which a man is accused of pushing a woman from the 12th floor of a building after she refused his advances. Women’s campaigners said misogynistic remarks remained commonplace in the Kenyan media, but they welcomed the decisive action taken, adding that it might help bring change to media coverage of gender issues.
“This is the first time we’re seeing swift and public action. We saw corporate brands denouncing it, the radio station taking action and also the authorities,” said Renee Ngamau, chairperson of Amnesty International Kenya and herself a former prime-time radio host.
“These are the hopeful signs in a terrible situation. I’m cautiously optimistic this can be a catalyst for change in moving away from this ‘locker room banter’ on the airwaves to having more responsible, sensitive conversations.”
Consistent training and gender sensitization for all media figures is essential, she added.
The Homeboyz presenters were sacked after social media users accused them of misogyny and victim-blaming following their comments on the court case, where the victim survived the fall from the building.
“Do you think Kenyan chiles (women) are too available, are they too loose, too willing, too desperate and that’s why they get themselves caught up in such situations?” DJ Shaffie Weru said during his “The Lift Off” breakfast show on March 24.
East African Breweries Ltd said it would stop advertising on the station, and – despite an apology from Weru and co-presenters Joseph Munoru and Neville Muysa – the three were fired on Saturday.
The nation’s broadcasting watchdog also suspended “The Lift Off” radio show for six months and fined the station one million Kenyan Shillings ($9,125), saying the programme had “glorified sexual violence against women”.
It also ordered all staff at HomeBoyz to undergo gender training and sensitization certified by the National Gender and Equality Commission.
Women and girls in Kenya face widespread discrimination and violence. According to UN Women, one in five women are married before 18, and almost 40% of girls and women have been beaten or sexually assaulted by their partners or husbands.
“The Kenyan media have made a mockery out of discussions on gender-based violence as the angle generally drifts towards ‘what about men’s rights?’, and they find ways to victim-blame,” said Judy Gitau, regional coordinator for Africa at Equality Now.
“The action taken – especially by the private sector and Kenyan authorities – does help to send a clear message that this cannot be tolerated.” ($1 = 109.6 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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