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Ivorian Catholic Priest Joins “wave of outrage” Condemning Televised Rape Demonstration

Fr. Norbert-Eric Abekan. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Catholic Priest serving in Ivory Coast has joined his compatriots who are expressing their condemnation of a televised rape demonstration aired in the West African nation on Monday, August 30, at prime time.

In a Wednesday, September 1 statement published on Facebook,  Fr. Norbert-Eric Abekan reacts to the show on Nouvelle Chaine Ivoirienne (NCI) Channel that featured a man presented as a former rapist explain, using a mannequin, how he assaulted his victims, BBC News reported.

The broadcast has attracted a nationwide outcry that has involved a petition signed by 30,000 people demanding that the presenters be punished.

“I join this wave of outrage to, in turn, fight and condemn with the strongest terms this NCI channel TV show on rape that affects our sensitivities,” Fr. Abekan says in his Facebook post, and adds, “I am outraged by such content both despising and disrespectful for women.”

Fr. Abekan notes that “rape, like all forms of abuse is an extremely delicate topic that needs to be dealt with seriously especially on a television channel that is supposed to educate.”

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“To approach such an issue lightly is to show contempt for women in general and especially for those who are victims and who are forever marked,” he further says.

The Catholic Priest who is UNESCO’s ambassador for Culture of Peace in Ivory Coast adds that “a girl or woman who has suffered rape and the crime is known, is the subject of stigma, social exclusion and happens to be put at the ban of the community.”

“The social consequences of rape are heavy trials to be carried on a daily basis by the victim. Psychic and physical trauma is just as much. For many rape victims, it is extremely difficult to overcome this trauma, as well as shame and threats,” says Fr. Abekan.

That is why, the founder of the Catholic Women Association (CWA) in Ivory Coast says in reference to rape victims, “the theatricalization without compassion of the brutality they suffered comes as a way of awakening complex pain. For the wise opinion, such an attitude is serious, absurd and vile. This explains the many outrages and denunciations since the broadcast of the program involved.”

On Tuesday, August 31, the leadership of NCI reportedly apologized.

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Ivory Coast’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, Nassénéba Touré, was amongst those who expressed her outrage, saying the show undermined the government’s efforts to eradicate rape.

The presenter of the program, Yves de M'Bella has asked for forgiveness amid reports that he was suspended from the television channel.

In his September 1 Facebook post, the Ivorian Priest “salutes the reaction of the management of the channel as well as the presenter of the show for the apologies made and taking full measure of the shock caused by the content.”

He further says, “I have no doubt that this serious incident will force them to self-criticize for the future.”

Fr. Abekan says Pope Francis is facing the same fight in the Catholic Church marked by disgraceful scandals for the past few years. 

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“For the Holy Father, the pain of victims of sexual abuse and abuse deserves respect,” he says, and calls for collective responsibility in matters to do with morality.

The Ivorian Priest concludes, “Finally, I call for the responsibility of all: policy makers, traditional leaders, religious leaders, educators, opinion leaders etc. Together, let us build a society of values and trust to offer future generations a good legacy.”