Ivorian TV host punished over ‘rape demonstration’ as anger persists

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A feminist activist holds a placard reading "No to rape culture" during a demonstration against the television channel Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) following a shocking programme on rape, at the NCI headquarters in Abidjan on September 1, 2021. A TV channel in Ivory Coast apologised on September 1, 2021 after airing a show in which a man presented as an ex-rapist showed how he assaulted his victims using a dummy for the demonstration. The programme, broadcast at prime time on Monday by the private Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) channel, caused a massive outcry and sparked a petition signed by 37,500 people demanding that the presenters be punished. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)
A feminist activist holds a placard reading “No to rape culture” during a demonstration against the television channel Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) following a shocking program on rape, at the NCI headquarters in Abidjan, September 1, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Outrage persisted Wednesday in Cote d’Ivoire two days after a TV host laughingly encouraged a convicted rapist to use a dummy to demonstrate how he abused his victims.

The program, broadcast during prime time by the private Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) channel, caused a massive outcry, with a petition signed by more than 46,500 people demanding that the presenter Yves de M’Bella be punished.

A court in the largest city Abidjan on Wednesday gave De M’Bella a 12-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay a fine of two million CFA francs (3,000 euros, $3,600) after convicting him of “condoning rape” and “indecency”.

He was also told not to leave Abidjan.

The West African country’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 Cote D’Ivoire beauty pageant, set for Saturday.

The show saw De M’Bella laughing as he handed a mannequin to his guest, Kader Traore, described as a former rapist.

De M’Bella helped him 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,” Traore was encouraged to give women “advice” on how to avoid being raped, in a segment meant to denounce sexual assault.

The court sentenced Traore to 24 months in jail and fined him 500,000 CFA francs.

Earlier Wednesday, around 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 said.

“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, which has been burning with anger over 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 with 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 underway into the team” that prepared the show, Joan said on Instagram.

Cote d’Ivoire has no official statistics on rape, but some evidence suggests that crimes against women and girls are widespread.

In June, an NGO called CPDEFM, which campaigns for the rights of children, women and minorities, published an in-depth probe that 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.

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