YAOUNDE, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A television show that featured a demonstration of how to physically abuse your wife has sparked outrage in Cameroon and calls for an end to impunity in a country where violence against women runs high.
The presenter of the show, on the privately owned Vision4 channel, demonstrated how to “calm” a woman by squeezing her neck.
“Grab her by the neck and press on it,” Ernest Obama told viewers as he flexed his hand, to on-air laughter from fellow journalists. “The more she talks the more you press.”
Cameroonian activists said Obama’s comments on the show, broadcast last week, contributed to a culture in which violence against women was seen as acceptable.
“We say no to violence,” said Cathy Aba Fouda, a spokeswoman for RENATA – a network of more than 21,000 volunteers who help victims of sexual abuse and violence rebuild their lives.
“Violence is not just sexual, it is also physical, moral, economic, but it starts with words,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We were extremely shocked by this programme where Mr Obama and his colleagues talked about violence against women with such lightheartedness.”
Obama denied advocating violence against women and defended the show, saying it was designed to educate viewers.
“It’s a programme where we talk about social topics to educate people,” he said in a telephone interview.
“We talked about a case of a fight between a husband and his wife. And the wife had caught the husband by the testicles,” he said
“My colleague talked about what one should do in case a woman grabs you by the balls, he suggested giving her a violent punch. I said … you should maybe rather hit her somewhere where it hurts less and which will not leave traces.”
More than half all Cameroonian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners at some point in their lives, according to UN Women.
Almost one in three girls are married by the age of 18, according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.
Abuse is often swept under the carpet, particularly when it occurs within the family.
Cameroon’s media watchdog, the National Communication Council, did not respond with a comment at the time of publication.
Vision4 officials declined to comment on the broadcast, which triggered a discussion earlier this week on another private channel, My Media Prime.
Cameroonian journalist Comfort Mussa, who initiated a movement to fight sexual harassment and violence against women, said that it was hard for women to speak out.
“Speaking out for me has sometimes come with the cost of being attacked and being threatened,” she said.
RENATA’s Fouda said a failure to address programmes such as the one broadcast on Vision4 would only exacerbate the problem of violence against women, demanding the government take a stance.
“We want justice to be served,” she said.
(Editing by Claire Cozens. Thomson Reuters Foundation)