Sexual harassment victims need to report and bring the perpetrators to justice


  • Family
  • Saturday, 11 Jul 2020

The first step to combat sexual harassment is to document the evidence in a chronological order and detailed manner. Photo: 123rf.com

Without a law that effectively addresses sexual harassment in Malaysia, reporting it can be extremely daunting, notes Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Rozana Isa.

“Often, a victim thinks of the immediate implications to herself – if she speaks up against the perpetrator, will it negatively affect her job/studies, ” she says.

Rozana highlights that while sexual harassment can happen to anyone across different faiths, it is particularly challenging for Muslim women as the Syariah law doesn’t address the issue of sexual harassment nor provide protection against it (including rape).

“Often, a victim thinks of the immediate implications to herself – if she speaks up against the perpetrator, will it negatively affect her job/studies,” says Rozana. Photo: Filepic“Often, a victim thinks of the immediate implications to herself – if she speaks up against the perpetrator, will it negatively affect her job/studies,” says Rozana. Photo: Filepic“But, it does address other wrongdoing such as khalwat (close proximity). The worry for a Muslim woman is that if it was a situation where she was alone with the perpetrator, she may be accused of khalwat if she reports the sexual harassment, ” she explains.

While it may seem easier to just ignore acts of sexual harassment, Women’s Centre for Change programme director Karen Lai says that no matter how difficult, it is crucial that victims of sexual harassment speak out and officially report the harassment they experience so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.

“It takes strength and courage to take action, so rather than being blamed, victims of sexual harassment should be empowered to speak up and do something about it, ” she adds.

The first step to combat sexual harassment is to document the evidence in a chronological order and detailed manner.

“Documentation is power with evidence. Do it as soon as possible after the incident before you forget the details, and as thoroughly as possible, ” Lai advises.

“A lot of sexual harassment also happens through text, so it’s very important that you don’t delete these texts. If it happens on social media, screen capture it as evidence, ” she says.

Twenty-two-year-old blogger Laila* (not her actual name) enjoys posting photos of herself on social media, usually to promote products or show places that she has visited.

Recently, someone using a troll account, started posting lewd remarks on her profile, telling her that her poses were “so sexy* that he wanted to f**.

Not knowing better, Laila deleted the remarks immediately, afraid that they would impact her followers or give a bad impression to the business whose product she was promoting.

“I didn’t realise that something could actually be done about it.

“It made me feel like it was my fault, that I had done something to provoke it, ” she says.

Like Laila, many women who have been sexually harassed online often brush off the trauma they experience, delete the offensive comments or even even close their social media accounts in order to get away from the harassment. Or, they are made to believe that they brought it upon themselves.

Women who have been sexually harassed on social media but don’t know who the perpetrator is because it is a troll account, can report it to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). If they do know the person, they can also go to the police.

Evidence is especially important for women who have been sexually harassed physically.

“We always advise rape victims not to take a shower after they’ve been attacked because the physical evidence is really important in order to get a conviction, ” says Lai even though she acknowledges that cleaning up after being attacked is the most natural thing to do

“But if there isn’t any physical evidence, take note of the details such as the time, date and location it happened at, and if there are any witnesses, and write everything down, ” she adds.

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