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Role Of The Mass Media In Propagating Against Gender-Based Violence


 Gender discrimination and domestic violence are endemic in Nigeria and pose an issue of tremendous human rights and public health concern. However, violence against women continues to be perceived as acceptable by a large proportion of both men and women. This paper explores the question: does greater exposure to media affect acceptance of domestic violence by women in Nigeria? First, I describe two channels through which greater access to media could affect women’s acceptance of domestic violence. Then, I use a difference-in-differences strategy to look at the relationship between switching into frequently watching television and/or listening to radio over time and the acceptance of violence by women. Using the Survey research design, the study reveals that there is no significant impact of switching into either only watching television or only listening to radio in the second period on women’s acceptance of violence. However, the impact of television when a woman switches into accessing both media over time is associated with a 3.9% reduced probability of accepting domestic violence, indicating a complementary effect of both media on reducing women’s acceptance of violence. While the results do not provide clear evidence on which mechanisms drive the association between increased access to media and reduced probability of accepting violence, I find that the complementary effect of television and radio is able to cross the education and urban- rural divides. These results indicate that policies which seek to empower women can promote the regular use of complementary media to further the cause of women’s empowerment.



1.1 Background to the Study


Women all over the world face discrimination in various spheres of life, including the workplace and the home. According to the World Development Report for 2012, women are more likely to work in the informal sector than men, earn less than men for similar work, and are more likely to be in poverty even when they work. In the domestic sphere, many women do not have control over household finances, and sometimes do not even have control over their own income. For instance, as many as 34% of married women in Malawi and 28% of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not involved in decisions about spending their earnings (World Bank, 2012). This study looks at a specific kind of discrimination against women in the household: domestic violence and women’s attitudes towards such violence. Physical, sexual, and psychological violence against women is endemic across the world, posing an issue of tremendous public health and human rights significance.  The World Development Report for 2012 finds that women are at far greater risk than men of violence by an intimate partner or somebody they know than from violence by other people. Yet in many nations, violence against women is perceived as acceptable or justifiable. The report states that on average, 29% of women in a sample of countries agreed that wife  beating was justified for arguing with the husband, 25% for refusing to have sex, and 21% for burning food (World Bank, 2018).

Although issues of domestic violence are a concern worldwide, they are particularly important in Nigeria, where levels of gender discrimination and domestic violence against women are very high. Several reasons have been suggested for the persistence of gender inequalities in Nigeria, such as the prevalence of poverty and the low participation of female labor in income-generating activities. However, Das Gupta (1987) finds evidence against these hypotheses, observing that major landowning castes in Nigeria had the most unequal sex ratios while the poorer castes had more equal sex ratios. She also finds that the Nigerian states of Punjab and Haryana had highly unequal sex ratios despite the high rate of female labor participation in agricultural activities. Thus, she concludes that discrimination against women in Nigeria is primarily because of cultural preference for men. While there have been many studies on the economic reasons for gender inequalities, there has been less research on how underlying cultural beliefs on gender can be changed. My study adds to this literature by focusing on the use of media, in particular television and radio, as a channel through which this cultural preference for men as well as discrimination against women can be lessened.

Media are not only a source of entertainment, but also a source of information about the outside world and exposure to other ways of life. Previous research has found that such awareness can influence a wide range of attitudes and behaviors. Olenick (2018) finds that in Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh, women who regularly watched television and who had been exposed to explicit family planning messages on radio or television were more likely than other women to approve of family planning. Also, Chong and La Ferrara (2009) show that the share of women who were separated or divorced increased significantly in Brazil after the availability of a TV channel that circulated ideas such as female emancipation in the work place, the female pursuit of pleasure and love, and emphasis on individualism. On the other hand, Olken (2009) finds that better television signal reception in Indonesian villages, which is correlated with more time spent watching television, is associated with substantially lower levels of participation in social activities, such as neighborhood associations and school committees, and lower self-reported measures of trust. This suggests that accessing media may also lead to a substitution away from other social activities or household duties.


Jensen and Oster (2009) study the impact of cable television on women’s status in the Nigerian state of Tamil Nadu. They find that the introduction of cable television, with television programs that presented urban attitudes and values, is associated with a 16% decrease in the reported acceptability of domestic violence and an 8.8% decrease in son preference, as well as increases in women’s autonomy and participation in household decision-making. Their results also provide suggestive evidence that exposure to cable television increases school enrollment for younger children, perhaps because of greater autonomy for women.

I carry forward the work of Jensen and Oster (2009) by studying the relationship between attitudes of women towards domestic violence and greater access to both television and radio because despite the great popularity of cable television, other media such as non- cable television and radio continue to be widely accessed in Nigeria. A study by a television research agency finds that the channels provided by the public service broadcaster Doordarshan attracted a large number of viewers and higher channel share than cable broadcasters in 2009 (Sinha, 2009). Another medium that is extremely popular in Nigeria is the radio, with the three most popular radio stations attracting about 40 million listeners collectively in 2008 (Ranganathan and Rodrigues, 2010). This reach of the radio is comparable to that of the press and private television channels. While the primary focus of most television and radio programs is entertainment, radio has emerged as a vital source of local information in contrast to television.

These similarities as well as differences in the content of television and radio programs may have a complementary effect on attitudes towards gender and domestic violence. For instance, information about local employment or political opportunities for


women, or stories about empowered women on local radio channels may reinforce the influence of seeing empowered and independent women on television. Indeed, previous studies have found some evidence for complementary effects between different media. Dutta- Bergman (2004) finds support for media complementarity in online and traditional media, with users of online news in a specific content area being more likely to seek out news in the same area from traditional media outlets. A report on radio broadcasting in Senegal also finds a degree of complementarity between radio and television in news broadcasts and in the allocation of hours spent accessing the two media (Dia, 2002).

On the other hand, when women access one or more media, they may be substituting time away from fulfilling the duties traditionally expected of them as wives, homemakers and mothers, similar to the substitution away from social activities found by Olken (2009). This substitution may even increase the incidence of domestic violence, and perhaps consequently influence women’s acceptance of violence from their husbands. Thus, in this study, I include a conceptual framework that considers these two possible opposing effects of accessing media over time on acceptance of domestic violence. I focus my attention on television and radio since they are both electronic media, and can be accessed by the literate and illiterate alike in both rural and urban areas.

A central empirical concern is that there may be a problem of endogeneity in the relationship between access to media and attitudes towards domestic violence, because it is possible that women who do not think violence is justified may be more empowered and may access more media. To address this concern, this study focuses on the impact of greater access to media over time on attitudes towards violence instead of doing a cross-sectional analysis of the relationship between use of media and attitudes towards violence. I use a difference-in-differences strategy to look at the association between switching into watching television and/or listening to radio regularly over time and the acceptance of domestic violence by women. By including a time trend, this strategy attempts to isolate the impact of accessing media from the impact of other factors that are changing over time and are correlated with both media use and attitudes towards domestic violence, such as greater economic prosperity or increase in levels of women’s education. I also include state fixed effects to capture the heterogeneity in attitudes towards women’s status and domestic violence across different states.

Using all-Nigeria, household-level data from two rounds of the National Family Health Survey of Nigeria conducted in 1998-99 and 2005-06, I find no significant impact of switching into either only watching television or only listening to radio in the second period on women’s acceptance of domestic violence. However, the impact of television when a woman starts accessing both media regularly in the second period is associated with a 3.9% reduced probability of accepting violence, indicating a complementary effect of watching television and listening to radio on reducing women’s acceptance of violence. There is no such comparable association between switching into listening to radio when both media are accessed and acceptance of violence. I also find that the impact of accessing both television and radio does not differ for rural and urban areas, or for different levels of women’s education. There is, however, no clear evidence on the mechanisms that may be driving the association between access to media and reduction in the probability of accepting violence.

The results of this study have an interesting implication for policies aimed at empowering women in Nigeria. The results suggest that there is a significant association


between decrease in the probability of accepting domestic violence and use of media when women have regular access to news and entertainment from multiple and complementary media, namely television and radio. Thus, state policies that subsidize and encourage the use of complementary media together may help to bring about a change in women’s acceptance of domestic violence. This exposure could perhaps also influence other norms about gender and women’s status in society, or have spillover effects due to social networks. In addition, since the results indicate that the effect of accessing both television and radio is not heterogeneous by location or education, these media may serve an important role in crossing the informational divide between rural and urban areas as well as educated and uneducated women.

The paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 provides background on television, radio, and domestic violence in Nigeria and Section 3 describes the NFHS data. Section 4 considers channels through which accessing media may change attitudes and outlines the empirical strategy used to study the impact of accessing media regularly over time on women’s attitudes towards domestic violence. Section 5 provides the main results, tests for heterogeneity, and reports evidence for the channels described in Section 4. Section 6 concludes.


1.2     Statement of The Problem

Ronke Shonde, a banker and mother of two, was beaten to death by her husband, Lekan Shonde, in Lagos. A manhunt for Mr Shonde, who fled the murder scene, was launched. Before taking his wife’s life, Mr Shonde used to “tie her, beat her and take her mobile phones away,” according to a neighbour (Usigbe 2018). Media in Nigeria is replete with stories of domestic violence involving women at home or in the streets, many of these with gory endings. On December 31, 2017, The Punch newspapers featured a story which indicated that 2017 was a year of deadly domestic violence cases. The publication included stories of tragic occurrence between husbands and wives involving brutal murder. From the publication, it was said that between January and September 2017 a total of 852 domestic violence cases was recorded in Lagos State alone.

On October 11 2017, the report had it that a man killed his wife and afterwards dumped her remains in a rubbish dump. The suspect was said to have used a machete to cut the remains of his wife into pieces which he then gathered into two sacks, put the sack in a wheelbarrow and dispose of them in a rubbish dump. The police said the suspect perpetrated the act in the presence of his three children who later reported the incident to the police. In another report, a man described as a retired boxer was said to have resumed training using his wife as a sparring partner whom he beat to death during Christmas celebration in their home town in Uli Ihiala Anambra State.

Although evidence from the 2013 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) suggests that both men and women are victims of domestic violence, it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women (The Guardian editorial, February 10, 2017). The report also identifies that women and girls are more subject to physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and all form of coercion. Perpetrators cut across the line of income, class, race, culture and status.

While domestic violence is a global problem, it has literarily taken residence in Africa with endless stories of pains and sorrow following it. In Nigeria particularly, the epidemic has assumed a disturbing dimension that even current penalties have not been able to serve as a deterrent. Violence against women as it is sometimes referred to is a manifestation of the unequal power relationship between men and women which has led to domination and discrimination against women by men. (Bakare, Asuquo&Agomo, 2010).The United Nations defined violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including the threat of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or in private life (World Health Organization, 1996 as cited in Bakare et al, 2010).

While the concept of physical and sexual violence might be easier to quantify and define across cultures, it might be difficult to define emotional and verbal abuse which women may found more devastating than physical or sexual abuse. Children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These can be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life. Domestic violence has been associated with higher rates of infant and child mortality and morbidity (for example. diarrheal or malnutrition).

Social and economic effect of Domestic Violence against Women are enormous and can include; women suffering isolation, inability to work, loss of income to the family, lack of participation in regular activities and limited ability to care for themselves and their children. In general, violence against women is a major obstacle to human development. It has a huge economic cost and aids the entrenchment of poverty. (Masawa, 2016).  Globally and locally, there have been a lot of organizations and groups who have joined forces to fight for the prevention and eradication of domestic violence especially as it concerns women and children. At the World Health Assembly in May 2016, member States endorsed a global plan of action on strengthening the role of the health system in addressing international violence, in particular against women and girls and against children.

In Nigeria, legal laws such as Violence against Persons’ Prohibition (VAPP) Bill which was passed by the Nigerian Senate on 5th May 2015 and signed into law on 24th May 2015 is the only federal-based law targeting gender-based violence and abuse. The law incorporates relevant provisions of international human right laws and principles. Specifically, the law covers such practice as the spousal battery, forceful ejection from home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices, female circumcision or genital mutilation, harmful traditional practices, substance attacks such as acid baths, political violence and violence by state actors (especially government security forces)

Here comes the responsibility of the media. The media is recognized all over the world as an agent of socialization, which moulds the moral views and opinion of the people. The newspaper and broadcast have been found to reflect and shape public opinion. Newspaper articles have been discovered to have a profound impact on the public perception of Domestic Violence against Women. This is because it is a more permanent form of communication than the broadcast media. Newspaper content is not necessarily absorbed uncritically by readers, therefore the way editors and Journalists frame news stories on Domestic Violence against Women, to a large extent influences the “take-home’ massage communicated to readers. This work is relevant to our society this time in that despite all the echoes on Domestic Violence against Women, the report has shown that Domestic Violence is on the upsurge in the country. It is so commonplace that it is often going on unnoticed. It has also failed to garner the level of concern it deserved (Musawa, 2016).

By way of stating the research problem, a number of studies found that domestic violence on women, which includes sexual and physical forms of violence as well as the homicide of female partners, accounted for a high proportion of the total volume of media reports on violence. It is also discovered that the media lay emphasis more on the method rather than history of the violence as if it is more important for readers to know how but not why. All these seem to make the report on female domestic violence to be overly simplistic, distorted and inadequate which causes lots of public’s confusion. Many reports also shift blame to victims and relied on police comments for context. Furthermore in our society, reporting violence seems to be changing the cultural and social norms about gender. In most cases, the newspaper report on violence against women often takes sensational tune with a “pick and drop attitude”.

Therefore, this work aims to review the nature of reports on female domestic violence in our national dailies and how newspaper reports on violence against women, can be presented in a more accurate way to enhance public understanding and how society sees domestic violence. Specifically, the objectives were to ascertain the frequency of coverage and level of prominence accorded to the coverage of Domestic Violence involving Women by the Nigeria mass media. Again, the style, depth and direction of newspaper coverage were also accommodated.

Also, this paper hypothesizes that there is a low level of prominence accorded to the coverage of female domestic violence news by Nigerian MEdia.


1.3       Objectives of the Study

The general objective is to examine the role of mass media in propagating against gender-based violence. The specific objectives are:

  1. To investigate the role of non-printing media in propagating against gender-based violence
  2. To investigate the role of printing media in propagating against gender based violence


  • To assess the combined effect media in propagating against gender-based violence


1.4 Research Question

  1. How does non-printing media in propagating against gender-based violence?
  2. What is the role of printing media in propagating against gender-based violence?
  • What is the combined effect media in propagating against gender-based violence?


1.5       Research Hypothesis

Hypothesis: Mass Media propagation does not have a significant effect on gender-based violence.


  • Significance of the Study

The study is on the role of mass media and propagation against gender-based violence is critical at this point in time. It will bridge the gap in existing literature and provides the framework into better understanding why gender-based violence occurs in a multicultural environment like Nigeria. It will also provide the basis for making sound policies which will guide against gender based violence while protecting the mass media platforms that report such issues.

The study will shine light on the factors mitigating the robust  reportage and coverage of gender-based violence while providing implementable solutions.

  • Scope of the Study

The study will only cover the traditional printing and non printing mass media while the social network and the reportage from other internet sources which are not verifiable will be ignored. This is to reduce the influence of fake news in the analysis.


1.8 Definition of key concepts


Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex OR gender identity. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or educational deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life


Mass media means technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet


Propaganda: “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” A variety of sources can act as propaganda.


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