Safeer TV in trouble with Ofcom over “rape” issue

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Safeer TV
Safeer TV

Safeer TV has been rapped by Ofcom for a reference to rape in its programme ‘It Takes 2’, which was broadcast in August.

The programme ‘It Takes 2’ presented by Bilal Ali Ma is a relationship advice programme for Muslim married couples. The episode broadcast on 7 August 2016 included a letter from an anonymous woman in Kenya who wrote that her husband repeatedly “forces himself” on her. The viewer asked for advice as to what she should do. Ofcom received a complaint that the programme reinforced an abuser’s “right to do something in the name of Islam” and did not make it clear that marital rape is a crime in the United Kingdom.

In response to this, Safeer TV said ‘It Takes 2’ has been broadcasting for two years and “aims at strengthening marital bonds between Muslim couples who have married under Islamic Law”. Therefore, the Licensee said that the programme answers the questions asked by viewers “from an Islamic Law perspective”. The Licensee accepted that “this does not in any way negate the laws of the UK or other countries in which this series is broadcast”. However, it did say It Takes 2 “is not a legal programme and under no guise asserts itself as such”.

The Licensee said however that in order to assist compliance with Rule 2.3 in the future, the channel will now make “available helpline information for viewers when covering subjects of a sensitive nature”.

In Ofcom’s view, viewers would have understood from this letter that a female viewer was saying clearly that her husband was repeatedly forcing her to have sex with him against her will. Given the extremely serious nature of this matter and issue, Ofcom considered that a great deal of care and sensitivity was required in the manner in which it was handled in the programme. Taking into account the programme had a clear focus on religious practice rather than on explaining the law, in our view the audience of a UK-licensed television service would still have expected that it would be made clear to the woman and the audience that she was potentially a victim of a very serious crime in the UK (and a number of other countries) and that her husband’s actions were morally unacceptable to the panel.

Safeer TV also said that “in Islam, marriage is a contract between the husband and wife, and whatever they agree on at the onset of the marriage becomes compulsory on both of them throughout”. The Licensee described this contract as “widely accepted amongst Muslims and plays a very important role in strengthening the family structure”. Ofcom took this into account. However, Ofcom did not consider that the audience’s view of the Islamic marriage contract was likely to have materially impacted on its expectations of a UK licensed channel featuring advice to a woman who had said she was being forced to have sex with her husband against her will.

Ofcom considered that in the circumstances of this case the Licensee failed to apply generally accepted standards to ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Therefore, our Decision was that Rule 2.3 was breached.

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