Debate flares over new TV show asking ‘Is This Rape? Sex on Trial’

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British TV show Is This Rape

A BBC programme exploring British teenagers’ views on what counts as rape has provoked debate on a searingly sensitive topic.

“Is This Rape? Sex on Trial”, a reality television-style documentary, brought 24 teenagers aged 16-18 together to examine a sexual encounter and vote on whether it was rape.

Viewers were also brought into the debate and were able to vote from home as the show was aired on Monday night on public broadcast channel BBC3.

The mixed group of boys and girls were filmed over two days as they watched a drama created for the show about two characters: 17-year-old Gemma and 18-year-old Tom.

After a house party, Gemma is dozing on a sofa and Tom puts his penis into her mouth. Two weeks later, Gemma reports the incident to the police.

When initially asked whether what had occurred in the drama was rape, many of the teenagers said they were not sure, describing it as a “misunderstanding” or “semi-rape”.

Some opened up about their own experiences, saying that such events were normal.

The name of the programme became the top trend on Twitter in Britain while it was aired and provoked strong reactions.

A review by newspaper the Mirror said the show “could be one of the BBC’s most important documentaries in recent years”.

But a writer in the Daily Telegraph was critical, saying the programme “repeatedly brought in ignorant, victim-blaming arguments and focused on the male perspective” by exploring the impact of rape accusations and convictions on men.

One London rape crisis centre said the programme showed “the clear need for education around consent in schools”.

Under British law, a person has consented “if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice” — meaning the half-asleep Gemma had not given consent.

After a debate and hearing the view of a lawyer specialising in rape trials, 87 percent of the teenagers voted that a rape had taken place, with four percent saying it was not a rape and nine percent saying they did not know.

In the public poll, 79 percent said what occurred was rape, 16 percent voted that it was not and five percent said did not know.

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  • mteule chris mwachia

    “i will table a bill in parliament so as kenyans can benefit from preventive measures”why cant our leaders table these bills when they are not battling wit cancer or disease.Hata hivyo qwik recovery

  • Two health ministers who don’t have faith in our Health system but they want the public to trust. Then they use taxpayers money to globe trotting seeking treatment. I never see public servants from South Africa seeking treatment elsewhere. This should be a wake up call.

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