A television presenter in Ivory Coast was convicted on Wednesday of glorifying rape and given a one-year suspended prison sentence for asking a convicted rapist he invited onto his prime-time show to simulate a sexual assault using a mannequin.
The court also fined the presenter, Yves de Mbella, 2 million CFA francs ($3,619.91) and banned him from leaving Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, for one year, a spokesperson for Ivory Coast’s justice system told Reuters.
The man who appeared on the show was sentenced to two years in prison, the spokesperson said.
De Mbella has apologised for the segment in which he asked his guest to demonstrate how he raped women, helped him adjust the female mannequin and asked whether the victims “enjoyed it”.
At the end of the “demonstration”, the interviewed man was encouraged to give women “advice” on how to avoid being raped.
De Mbella said on Tuesday he had been trying to “raise awareness” in the segment, which aired on the Nouvelle Chaine Ivoirienne (NCI) private television station on Monday, but said he had “made an error”.
NCI also apologised and cancelled the final episode of de Mbella’s show, which had been scheduled for Friday. An online petition calling for de Mbella’s show to be cancelled has received nearly 50,000 signatures.
Ivory Coast’s independent communications council on Tuesday ordered de Mbella suspended for 30 days, saying the segment had condoned rape and attacked the dignity of women.
‘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 program.
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 organizers 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.
(With inputs from Reuters and Aljazeera)