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The Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) also sent us this open letter to the editor of The Standard, objecting to their recent article DPM Khupe dispels pregnancy rumours.

I agree entirely that The Standard needs to be challenged on their journalistic priorities on this article. Who decdied that an article that leads like this was newsworthy:

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe is reported to be expecting her fourth child, though she denied the reports saying she was not in a position to have a baby. Khupe has been spotted with a hugely visible bulge, prompting speculation that she is pregnant.

But is some of this critique also stemming from a loyalty to or softness for Khupe in particular? Where are the similar critiques of the sensationalistic journalism and misogynistic stereotyping that has characterised, for example, recent rumours of an affair between Grace Mugabe and Gideon Gono?

Read the letter to the editor below:

Dear Editor in Chief

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the AU and Un instruments that speak gender equality and more recently the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. This protocol urges member states to take measures to discourage the media from reinforcing gender oppression and stereotypes as well as degrading or exploiting women especially in areas of entertainment and advertising and undermining their role and position in society. It is our belief that media houses, especially those that claim to be independent and progressive, like the Standard, reflect these values and principles in their publications and conduct.

We at Women in Politics Support Unit are angered at the blatant undermining and sexualization of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe Honorable Thokozani Khupe that was exhibited by the Standard newspaper. The article that was given front page prominence in the Standard newspaper of 24 to 30 October 2010 was sexist and demeaning to the public stature of a whole Deputy Prime Minister.

It is with great concern that we question the role of media in reinforcing stereotypes that continue to be used to oppress women. The reproductive role of a man no matter his political prominence has never been front page news. Yet we see the pregnancy or lack thereof of the Deputy Prime Minister being topical at a time when she is doing great work for and on behalf of the women of Zimbabwe in her portfolio as Deputy Prime Minister of this country, UN Ambassador on the Global Aids Network and as a member of her political party. She has a recently entered into dialogue with urban councils to reduce the maternity fee that women were being charged. Is that not newsworthy?

This also concerns us as it is a reflection of the mindset of the reporters and editors of the Standard who view a prominent politician as a sexual being instead of according her the respect she deserves as a national representative.

This is contrary to the principles of the SADC Protocol and shows that the only “leading” the Standard is doing is in perpetrating the gender stereotypes that are used to discriminate against women, and in this case, women in public office specifically.  This was further demonstrated by your failure to meet with our staff to discuss our concerns about this article, even after an appointment had been set and confirmed. It is this lack of respect for the opinions, time and work of women that manifested itself and continues to do so in gender biased reporting and coverage.

It is our sincere hope that an apology to the Deputy prime Minister will be given the same prominence that your demeaning article was given. Failure to do so will encourage us to begin to mobilize the women of Zimbabwe and in the region against your publication.

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