SE_X 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 S_exual Rights Centre (SRC) on Monday, programmes officer Unoziba Utenga said they were seeking more positive reporting that identified se_x workers as human beings and normal people.
“We organised this platform to engage journalists in an effort to promote more positive reportage of se_x 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 se_x workers,” she said.
Utenga said se_x 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 se_x unlike what is usually said in the papers”.
SRC legal support officer Sipho Khumalo said se_x 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 se_x 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 se_x 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 se_x workers. Such engagements help debunk myths and stereotypes associated with se_x work. It opens up debate on a lot of issues around se_x 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 se_x workers, Chankanyuka said: “Use of se_x work sensitive language, portrayal of se_x workers in a positive light in a way that changes the narrative around se_x work.”
Barney Masimba, a freelance journalist, said while he acknowledged what the se_x workers had said if he wrote anything positive about the se_x 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 se_x workers, les_bian, g_ay, transgender and bis_exual and interse_x community in advocating for their sexual rights.