The story, “Onnie dwing seun (5) om ‘n rok te dra” (“Teacher forces boy (5) to wear a skirt”) in which a 5-year-old boy was allegedly forced by a teacher to wear a skirt makes Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) mad. Beeld (02/06/2010) published the report on the front page, photographing and naming the child which does not serve his best interest.

Allegedly, a female teacher at a pre-school forced the 5-year-old boy to wear a skirt. His father supposedly found out, that this happened. According to the teacher, wearing the skirt was meant to be punishment for the boy because he had played with girls and kissed them. Apparently, the boy said that he had been playing in the skirt all day and that all the children in school must have seen him wearing it.

His mother thought the punishment was cruel and said that she has phoned the education department about the incident. She said the school offered an apology and issued a warning to the teacher for this incident.

There was no compelling reason to identify the boy, his family, or the school he attends. Identification through the media coverage puts him and his family at risk of secondary abuse, such as teasing, and fails to acknowledge his rights to dignity and privacy. There is no justification for the front page photograph of the boy, his mother and his younger sister.  As a result of this report far more people know about the abuse he suffered, which could lead to further abuse.

In addition, the mother of the boy seems to have been the only person accessed in the report. This violates good journalistic practice by not giving an opportunity to other parties involved to respond. As a result, it is unclear why the story was reported on, and given such prominence.

There was no reason for Beeld to provide all the details of the child and his relatives, as it certainly was not in the best interest of the child. We at MMA hope that in the future, the rights of the child will be considered to avoid the risk of secondary abuse as a result of media coverage.