[WATCH] Women’s rights activists lodge complaint with BA over 'sexist messages'

Members of the Women for Women Facebook group have filed an official complaint over the contents of a programme hosted by the Overcomers’ Chapel

It is being described as the woman’s “duty” to see to his “needs”, with reference to how a woman should submit to her husband's sexual advances, no matter what.
It is being described as the woman’s “duty” to see to his “needs”, with reference to how a woman should submit to her husband's sexual advances, no matter what.
'Do not refuse your husband sex'

A group of over 800 women have filed an official complaint with the Broadcasting Authority, over a programme which aired on local television station FLiving on the 18 July, in which the presenter can be seen telling viewers that a wife was obliged to never refuse her husband sex.

“I will emphasise again, the importance of woman not refusing her husband, to avoid him looking at other women because unfortunately [sex] is something that is maybe more of a need for man, but the woman must be there for her husband,” says the programme's presenter. “This way we preserve the purity in our relationship”.

In their letter to the BA, the women’s rights activists argue that the programme conveyed what they described as “alarming and potentially harmful sexist messages”.

“The presenter is basically promoting the idea that a wife should never refuse her husband’s sexual advances, because he might go off with someone else. It is being described as the woman’s “duty” to see to his “needs” even after they may have had an argument and that a woman should never refuse to have sex because that is the word of God,” they argued.

Moreover, they point out that “apart from being a shocking and unacceptable thing to promote on television in this day and age” the programme’s message could be harmful to “easily-influenced and vulnerable viewers”.

“While we obviously uphold the right for anyone to produce a religious programme, and believe in the freedom of expression of one’s religious worship, when it comes to transmitting such messages, this goes diametrically opposite to the laws on gender equality and woman’s rights which are stipulated in Malta,” adds the letter. 

They pointed to “prevalent cases of marital rape, where the husband feels he is entitled to sexual intercourse, no matter what”.

“We therefore feel that what this particular episode of this programme is promoting is a breach of the rights of women within a marriage or relationship, at a time when we are seeing a disturbing increase of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Francesca Fenech Conti, a women’s rights activist and admin of the Women for Women’s Facebook group, told MaltaToday that as a woman she finds it very dangerous and unacceptable that any local channel promotes any sort of degradation of women.

“I believe even though most women in Malta feel that they have equality in their homes and personal lives, sadly there are still many who are fighting misogyny on a daily basis across all stratas of society from inside homes, the work place, on social media and also in the highest institutions of our country,” she said, adding that she hoped that the letter would create more awareness and show that women will not accept “any sort of trampling” of their right to gender equality. 

Reacting to the video clip, the Network of Young Women Leaders said it was “absolutely appalled” at the programme which it said violated the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW), the Istanbul Convention, as well as fundamental women’s rights and gender equality”.

“During this programme, presenter Pauline Attard Abela and Pastor Jide state that men have the absolute right to 'help' their wives choose clothes which suit their body type and which is of his preference not hers, and to dismiss her whenever her clothes are not up to his standard,” read a Facebook post by the group.  “We condemn any type, sort or form of body-shaming, especially men's shaming of women who fail to live up to their standards of beauty or behaviour, and more importantly, the notion that the woman has to live up to the expectations of her husband who has a 'divine right' to be regularly pleased by his wife, in more ways than one”.

The group rejected the notion put forward by the programme, that women should obey, and that the wife should know and keep her place”.

Moreover, it said that the statement that women should not refuse men sex led to the audience to be “brainwashed into thinking that sex is something that a woman owes to a man, therefore inciting sexual assault, domestic violence and marital rape”.

“Once society finally accepts the notion that women like sex, we can begin shattering the stigma surrounding female sexuality, and this cannot even start to be overcome if our teenagers and younger generation grow up listening to female submission, sexual assault incitements and victim-blaming on our national media,” said the group.

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