The scandal of the demonstration of a rape live on television has revived the debate around the issue of sexual violence. Feminist collectives and associations want to see it as a sign of a turning point in the fight against this scourge.
The indignation does not fall in Côte d’Ivoire. For nearly a week, social networks have been on fire to denounce the trivialization of the culture of rape in the country. On Wednesday September 1, dozens of feminist activists also demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the private channel NCI to demand sanctions.
The object of their anger: a sordid sequence from an entertainment show in which ex-rapist asked to fake sexual assault on a plastic mannequin and then to give advice to women to avoid suffering the same fate.
Faced with the general outcry, the courts seized the case with unusual rapidity and the host Yves de M’Bella was sentenced to 12 months in prison with a suspended sentence and a fine of 3,000 euros for “apologizing for the rape”.
As for the broadcaster, it has not yet been prosecuted, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA) contenting itself with encouraging it to show “vigilance” in its programming. A clemency that makes feminist associations jump. They deplore the absence of sanctions against the management of the channel.
However, in this situation it is not the only problem. If anything, it is a symptom of the real problem that is the culture of rape and it is counterproductive to reduce it to NCI or Yves de M’bella
– Ruby (@Rubyjaidit) August 31, 2021
However, the strong reaction of public opinion and the speed of legal action suggest that Côte d’Ivoire may have just experienced a turning point in the fight against sexual violence. “We see a strong signal, it proves that there are things that we can no longer let pass, that rape is not tolerated,” says Désirée Dénéo, secretary general of the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights ( LIDF), interviewed by AFP. “This opens the debate on rape in Ivorian society” and “it allows these women not to feel alone and to be able to pass the course of silence.”
For associations, this mobilization of civil society is a sign that the awareness-raising work carried out for several years is also starting to pay off. In the wake of the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movement in 2017, a new generation of activists, younger and connected, have helped bring to the fore the issue of gender and ordinary sexism in traditional African societies. from West.
“The use of social networks by these young feminists has made it possible to make their actions more visible and to denounce certain behaviors without having to go through the State or another power”, details for France 24 researcher Carolin Beck, gender specialist at Sciences-Po and author of a study on feminist movements in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. It gives them a platform to act very freely. ”
Bénédicte Joan belongs to this new generation of African women determined to shake things up. Since the broadcast of the show, the president of the Stop au chat noir association, ensures with France 24 to receive 15 messages per day. “These are young people who want to get involved and educate people in their community because it is also happening in their neighborhood, in their home.”
In popular culture, “the black cat” refers to an abuser, an uncle or a family friend, who sneaks into a young girl’s room at night only to rape her by surprise. “It’s a bit of a humorous expression that a lot of actors use in their sketches. We say that we must stop laughing at rape, ”explains the activist. “The problem is that since the post-electoral crisis of 2010, we live in an entertainment society, we laugh about everything and we no longer take anything seriously”.
Several studies show that sexual violence is far from a laughing subject in Côte d’Ivoire. According to the UN, a quarter of Ivorian women are victims of physical and / or sexual violence committed by a loved one throughout their life.
As in other countries, the periods of confinement linked to the Covid-19 epidemic have also contributed to increasing violence against women. In June 2020, the organization Citizens for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of Children, Women and Minorities (CPDEFM), led by lawyer Sylvia Apata, published a study among more than 5,500 women. In the city of Abidjan alone, the association recorded in two years 416 feminicides and 2,000 cases of violence against women, including 1,290 cases of marriage of girls under 18 and 1,121 rapes.
Pay for a rape certificate
Côte d’Ivoire also has official statistics collected by the Ministry of Women, Families and Children. In 2018, the authorities reported 2,744 cases of gender-based violence, including 693 rapes across the country. But this figure would be largely underestimated, according to associations, because few attacks are the subject of a complaint and even less of legal proceedings.
In addition to having to overcome social pressures, feelings of shame or fear of reprisals, victims must pay 50,000 CFA francs, or 76 euros to obtain a medical certificate of rape. A document which, without being obligatory, is essential from a legal point of view to bring the proceedings to a successful conclusion.
“This certificate allows you to provide proof of what you have suffered”, details on the antenna of France 24 Carelle Goli, legal officer of the League which fights for better support for survivors of sexual assault. “This certificate must become free so that the victim can file a complaint as soon as possible”.
For their part, the authorities are well aware of the problem and are stepping up initiatives: awareness campaigns, listening platforms, specialized units in police stations to register complaints, etc. In 2014, the government launched a National Strategy to Combat Violence. based on gender and an Observatory the following year.
“On paper, there are a lot of good ideas and the country is really engaged”, analyzes Carolin Beck. Except that the duration of funding does not always allow actions to be carried out over the long term. In addition, resources are very concentrated in Abidjan and less in rural areas. The legal framework is there, now it must be applied ”.
“The Ministry for Women is making enormous efforts by organizing campaigns to prevent gender-based violence” recognizes Bénédicte Joan. But we can’t ask a society so little sensitized to take a hundred paces at once. Things are progressing but they are moving slowly. ”