A local TV presenter under fire for comments he made on the air instructing rape victims to give in to assault rather than to fight their attackers yesterday offered an apology of sorts, saying he was only joking when he made the suggestion and intended for it to be “educational”.
Meas Rithy, who hosts Hang Meas TV’s popular morning show and is the deputy director general of the station, was criticised by women’s rights advocates for saying last week that women should not resist rape, advising them instead to just “let them rape you”, while commenting on the sexual assault and murder of an 18-year-old woman in Svay Rieng province.
Addressing outrage on social media, the presenter said he would apologise on air if he had hurt the feelings of women with his comments. In his on-air apology yesterday he said his comments were meant to educate women and had been said in jest, and that he did not mean that women should submit themselves to rape.
“We don’t really mean all women when they get raped that they need to be soft. I already said that I am just joking,” he said on the show.
Rithy also addressed suggestions made by his co-host, Ros Sotheavy, that women should not hire taxis alone but should instead use public transportation for their safety. He said he was only asking women to be careful and find a driver they trusted, and that they were speaking with “good intentions”.
Rithy couldn’t be reached yesterday. His comments follow the implementation in July of a code of conduct – signed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ministry of Information – for reporting on violence against women, which explicitly prevents victim shaming.
Women’s rights advocates yesterday were not placated by his apology, saying it was insincere.
Bun Rachana, who works at ActionAid, said the apology was riddled with excuses, and she was unable to comprehend how a brutal rape could be the subject of a joke.
“I just don’t understand what kind of joke is it when a person is murdered in a cruel way,” she said yesterday.
Rachana had started an online petition last week asking for both presenters to tender apologies for the comments and for Hang Meas to ensure that its reporters were sensitised to reporting on women’s issues, adding that she would send it to the station and to the Information Ministry.
Ros Sopheap, from Gender and Development for Cambodia, said his apology was meaningless.
“It really shows his understanding about women is very limited,” she said.