A television host in Ivory Coast has been given a 12-month suspended jail term for “condoning rape” after guest on his prime-time show acted out sexual assaults with a dummy.
Presenter Yves de M’Bella was also ordered on Wednesday to pay a fine of two million CFA francs ($3,600) and has been barred from leaving Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city.
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De M’Bella laughingly encouraged his TV guest, a man presented as a former rapist, to use a mannequin to demonstrate how he abused his victims.
The programme, broadcast by the private Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) channel, caused an enormous outcry. An online petition calling for de M’Bella’s show to be cancelled has received nearly 50,000 signatures.
Ivory Coast’s audiovisual authority HACA suspended de M’Bella for 30 days from all radio and television stations. He has also been barred from hosting the Miss Ivory Coast beauty pageant, set for Saturday.
De M’Bella helped his guest to lay the dummy on the ground and asked him to explain in detail how he raped his victims.
At the end of the “demonstration”, the interviewed man was encouraged to give women “advice” on how to avoid being raped.
De M’Bella has apologised for the segment and said he had been trying to “raise awareness” in the segment.
‘People see things on TV and copy them’
On Wednesday, about 10 women gathered outside NCI, demanding that the station set aside time to give voice to rape victims and raise public awareness about sexual violence.
“It’s a widely-watched channel in a country with a high illiteracy rate,” feminist blogger Fatim Sylla told AFP.
“People see things on TV and copy them,” said Sylla, a member of Allo Benevoles, an association that aids the development of women and children. “So let’s use television to educate people.”
Wednesday’s protest was live-streamed on social media, where many furious users denounced the programme.
The head of an association of rape victims, Benedicte Joan, said the sanctions against De M’Bella were not enough.
Despite his apologies, de M’Bella “should never again appear on our screens”, she said.
NCI management met two of the organisers of Wednesday’s protest to offer their “sincerest apologies” for allowing the broadcast.
“They acknowledged their mistake [and] informed us that an investigation is under way into the team” that prepared the show, Joan said on Instagram.
Ivory Coast has no official statistics on rape, but some evidence says the crime is widespread.
In June, an NGO called CPDEFM, which campaigns for the rights of children, women and minorities, published an in-depth probe, which concluded that in the space of two years, 416 women had been killed in Abidjan alone.
It also identified 1,290 marriages of girls aged less than 18 and 1,121 rapes.