A Tunisian television program has been suspended after its host suggested a 17-year-old rape victim should marry her attacker and apologiseto her father for falling pregnant as a result of her abuse.
The girl appeared on presenter Ala Chebbi’s talk show Andi Mankolek – which translates to "I've Got Something to Tell You" – alongside her brother after their father kicked her out of the house, according to the BBC.
Visibly distressed and crying at some stages throughout the broadcast, she said she had been sexually abused by three different family members since the age of 14 and is now eight months pregnant by one of her attackers.
She had dropped out of school at 14 to work on the family farm.
After recounting her story and being joined on stage by her father, Chebbi suggested the family should “contain the situation” and that “whoever did it [got her pregnant] should marry her to close the case".
Chebbi’s remarks refer to an article of law that allows statutory rape charges to be dropped in the event the perpetrator marries the victim. A 2015 report by Amnesty International states that while Tunisia is "the leading Arab nation for gender equality", legal loopholes "are granting perpetrators of rape, sexual assault and physical violence a way out while their victims are frequently punished and blamed when they dare to report the crimes against them".
He later went on to ask the girl to “admit that you are at fault” and tell her to apologise to her father as pregnancy before marriage carries shame.
Outraged viewers swiftly took to social media in protest with many sharing an image that read, “Mr Ala: The punishment for rape is imprisonment, not marriage."
It appears the local television regulator agrees, and has found the show “violated human dignity”. Broadcast has now been suspended for three months, according to the BBC.
In a later radio interview, Chebbi defended his comments as taken out of context, saying the girl had yet to prove she had been assaulted and that was at fault for not speaking up about it sooner.
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