The choice of language matters, writes The Globe and Mail's public editor Sylvia Stead. 

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

One of the more shocking things happening in the world today is the abduction of more than 100 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram Islamists. The students, aged 12 to 17, were forced onto a convoy of trucks and while some have escaped, others have been either held hostage or sold into slavery.

The news out of Nigeria in this story is that a number of the girls were “sold as brides to Islamist fighters for the equivalent of $13 each.”

The phrase “sold as brides” in this wire article does not begin to properly describe the horror of this story. In fact, they have been sold as slaves.

In this other story, the online headline says the abducted girls were forced to marry and that too underplays what is happening to these children.

The Globe and Mail’s South American correspondent, Stephanie Nolen, says quite rightly: “They’re not marriages. [Some of the girls] are 9, 10, 11, 12. It’s human trafficking and sexual enslavement, not ‘marriage,’ and we contribute to the fiction that they are somehow marriageable by using the language.”

She is right and the language used in these articles that appear on The Globe and Mail’s site should reflect that reality. As always, the choice of language matters.

To read more of Stead's columns, please go where they are originally published. 

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.