A Gender Code of Ethics for the Media

As a follow up to our October 2012 workshop on gender-sensitive reporting which was sponsored by UNESCO, we have been asked to propose a Gender Code of Ethics for the Media. Before finalising, we are seeking views and suggestions on the draft proposal  You can either comment here or send an email to chanssc@uom.ac.mu or christinameetoo@gmail.com. We will soon launch a book as a follow up to the workshop on ethics in journalism and the workshop on gender-sensitive reporting. It will be made available freely to all journalists and media houses and will be an interesting follow-up to Robertson’s preliminary report.

Proposed Gender Code of Ethics for the Media
Gender equality is an integral part of freedom of expression as all gender categories have the right to be heard and seen in the public sphere as full-fledge citizens participating in a democratic society. Gender balance is thus important in news reporting. Equally important is the need to challenge prevailing gender stereotypes.

Journalists endeavour to recognise the diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, ability, sexuality, age and class. They shall strive to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender from their respective publication and pledge to put more effort to provide for more balance, fairness and accuracy in their reports. They shall strive to be inclusive by seeking a diversity of voices rather than rely solely on usual male dominant sources.

Journalists and media houses shall NOT:

  • use discriminatory or sexist language. In case they are citing such language as used by the subjects of their articles, they shall use appropriate quotation marks and reporting verbs while taking care not to promote or support the person quoted.
  • depict women in general as inferior, secondary class citizens.
  • resort to gender stereotyping of roles (e.g. loving, caring women, tough men, effeminate gays, masculinised lesbians, etc.).
  • have recourse to the commoditisation of the female body and gratuitous sexualised and eroticised views of women who are portrayed in the news.
  • pander to lurid curiosity.
  • publish the identity (name, picture) of rape victims and victims of sexual violence and other sexual offences without informed consent. They shall take all precautions to protect the identity of such victims so that the latter are not subjected to stigmatisation and further trauma.
  • glamourise violence against women and sexual minorities such as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender (LGBT).
  • advocate hatred based on gender, nor incite to cause harm.
  • encourage misogyny and the reinforcement of patriarchy.

In the workplace, media houses shall allow journalists to work across a diversity of beats, irrespective of gender category. They shall ensure that selection, recruitment, career pathing, capacity building, training, fast tracking and promotion are devoid of gender discrimination and that there is no tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. They shall encourage friendly work practices and mutual respect between men and women. Media houses shall encourage the active pursuit of knowledge in gender issues and incorporate same in their training programmes. They shall develop policies to ensure gender balance in coverage and gender equality in the workplace.

This Gender Code of Ethics should be read in line with any General Code of Ethics, whether developed by media houses, media associations or regulators.

11 thoughts on “A Gender Code of Ethics for the Media

  1. Excellent initiative!

    After re-reading it twice thouroughly I could not find any suggestions to be made on the proposed Gender Code of Ethics you have written after the workshop.It has been well designated and I believe that you can go forward with it M’am .

    Looking forward that these code of ethics are being respected in the near future and that there is an independent body which ensure that it is being respected.

    With Regards,



  2. Tell me, you don’t want alleged victims of rape’s information posted. Do you feel the same way about their alleged attackers’ information, or is your definition of gender ethics female-centric?

    As for any mention of the “patriarchy” – as long as women are continually given special treatment and advantages, e.g., affirmative action, there is no “patriarchy” beyond what feminists demand that there be.


    • @jonolan: I do not think this code is female-centric. Please read carefully. It advocates gender balance and equality, for men, women and all gender categories including LGBT
      Fact is of course that it is mostly women and sexual minorities who are victims of discrimination
      Do you mean to say we do not live in a patriarchal society? Can you cite examples of systematic special treatment and advantages for women in Mauritius?
      I am not myself a fan of positive discrimination though it’s sometimes a temporary necessity but this code never asked for that anyway, just balance and equity


      • Many, though not all, of the points listed are female-centric. In fact, many wouldn’t even apply to men in general as a problem, e.g., tough men.

        One thing though – I approached this as an American. You’re quite right that other, less developed areas of the world operate under different rules, rules that many find offensive and sexist.


      • OK I thought you were Mauritian. I still don’t see why you feel it’s only female centric. Tried to cater for all gender categories. But indeed we live in a more patriarchal society than the USA in general though I hate to generalise and that does not make Mauritius less developed


  3. I don’t think that there’s any point in my explaining why and how your criteria are female centric because I’m not Mauritian and, hence, the definition of the term is different in context for me. Basic society is so different between America and Mauritius that you and I are almost always going to read things about sexism completely differently than each other because our societal inferences are so different.

    In other words, every single word of what you wrote might be great and wonderful for Mauritius in this day and age while those same exact words would not, in practice, mean the same things in America and would not properly fit with what is happening there.

    E.g. – “Use discriminatory or sexist language” – America has a ongoing argument over what that is even to the point of which, if any honorific such as Miss or Mrs. should be used to avoid “discriminatory or sexist language.” 😯


    • OK I understand your point of view. The lines are always moving anyway and it’s not a bad thing to have debates though you seem unhappy about those taking place in your country. This is what makes us human and interesting I guess.


  4. Bonjour. Moi aussi je trouve que pratiquement tout a été dit dans ce Gender Code of Ethics for the Media. Ici, a Radio One, nous faisons tout notre effort pour respecter le Gender balance (…) in news reporting. Nous essayons aussi autant que possible a donner la parole aux femmes dans divers secteurs… des fois c’est pas facile. meme si je ne trouve pour le moment aucune autre idéee que je pourrais vous suggérer, je vais certainement donner une copie par mail a tous les memebres de la redaction de Radio One. Merci du bon travail que vous faites.


  5. Hi Christina
    Great work indeed and long overdue when I consider the plight of women here. I was thinking of the trivialisation of women’s work. Women do not want to have any favors from anyone ; just to be assessed fairly and to have a level playing field.


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