Some Egyptian legislators have called on Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly to ban a prank television show aired every year during Ramadan, accusing it of inciting violence against women.
The show Ramez Magnon Rasmi, or Ramez Is Officially Crazy, invites celebrities onto what is branded as a serious talk show in Dubai, but it turns out to be a hoax episode hosted by actor Ramez Galal.
The guests are handcuffed to a chair with Galal threatening them with crabs and snakes, or with other punishments if they do not “confess” to his questions.
In the first episode, Galal made fun of actress Ghada Adel for being a divorced woman, and in others, he hit some actresses on their shoulders and touched their faces to get a reaction.
Mohamed Khalifa, one of the parliamentarians who filed a complaint with the prime minister, said the show should be taken off-air immediately. But the programme was defended by its broadcaster, the Saudi-owned MBC Group.
“It is a sadist show that is not only insulting to women but it is damaging to the whole society as it contains a lot of violence, torture and bullying,” Khalifa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The prime minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the prank show that Galal has hosted during Ramadan for about seven years, regularly causing controversy.
Another parliamentarian, Mortada Mansour, filed a complaint to the public prosecutor, calling for the show to be withdrawn as it contained violence as well as the harassment of female guests.
Sexual harassment, domestic violence, and discrimination against women are widespread and serious problems in Egypt, according to the United Nations.
A 2017 survey by UN Women and gender equality group Promundo found more than 60 percent of Egyptian men said they sexually harassed a woman, and most men believed women sometimes deserved a beating.
The National Council for Women filed an official complaint to the country’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, saying the show’s presenter offended and patronised female guests.
The programme has also sparked controversy among social media users and followers on its Facebook page, some of whom called for it to be taken off-air.
“This show is humiliating to all its guests, especially women. It should be banned,” said Mohamed Hamed.
Mazen Hayek, an MBC spokesman, said the channel acknowledged the criticism but added it was a top-rated show and all guests had given their approval to air the episodes.
“To people who criticise the show and have reservations about Galal’s comments on women, we tell them we hear you and respect your opinion. We totally respect women’s rights,” Hayek said.
“But if you do not like the show you can watch other shows. You cannot take three seconds of a TV prank show and label the whole channel as insulting women, especially since we have been empowering women both in our shows as well as in … MBC.”
Women’s rights activists raised concerns that the programme could increase violence against women.
“Besides normalising torture through the pranks, Galal also makes insulting remarks and comments on female guests, their clothing and their reactions,” said Randa Fakhr el-Deen, head of the NGOs’ Union on Harmful Practices Against Women and Children.
“This is another show that encourages society to normalise violence and harassment in all its forms against women.”