A local tabloid here in Zimbabwe ran a story that is likely to stoke hate and discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in the country.
Zimbabwe is still a conservative society, but the media has lately been giving fairer coverage to the LGBTIQA+ community owing to sensitivity workshops conducted by organisations like GALZ and Hands of Hope.
However, the article penned after a recent concert has taken this marginalised community aback, with fears that it will inflame the stigma and discrimination associated with being LGBTIQA+.
Norlex Chabata of Hands of Hope criticised the story.
“The article is absolutely in bad taste and very discriminative,” said Chabata.
“People should be free to express who they are and should not be judged.”
The article quotes a man who attended the show expressing his disgust at what he called “a threat to women’s dignity and right to privacy”.
Curiously, the man chose not to identify himself, leaving the legitimacy of these quotes open to question.
According to a booklet by Taboom Media, Covering Sexual and Gender Minorities and Religion in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Reporting Guideline for Journalists, journalists should “avoid using imagery that depicts religious or sexual and gender minorities in stereotypical or dehumanizing ways”.
It also says, “always consider the motivations and potential biases of our sources”.
Media trainer Brian Pellot called the headline of the tabloid story “fear-mongering”.
“I don’t know the full context of the story, but if it’s about trans women, they should not be referred to as ‘men dressed as women’,” Pellot said.
“It does seem to be a fear-mongering headline.”
Another worry is that one of the “men dressed as women” was identified, with pictures taken by the tabloid.
Although there are now many openly LGBTIQA+ people, most still don’t like to have their photographs taken for fear of being attacked or further ostracised by their families once they are identified.
“While I want to share my experiences with you members of the press, I would not like to have my photographs taken because I recall an incident when I had my photo taken at a GALZ party,” said a GALZ member.
“The following day, my picture was in a daily newspaper with the caption ‘Gays Partying’, and this did not go down well with my family members despite that they knew my sexuality.”
There are fears that Yamikani, the person identified in the story, will have to avoid public places after the incident to avoid physical harm.
The story has gone viral, and at future public events, the LGBTIQA+ community will likely shy away from the media, judging by the resentment the story has generated from homophobic citizens.