Nurul Izzah's dressing ‘advice’ highlights need for better laws to protect women


A file of Nurul Izzah speaking at a fundraising dinner in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 24, 2015. -The Star/AZHAR MAHFOF

PETALING JAYA: While Malaysians are criticising the man who “advised” Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar’s to dress modestly, the unfazed lawmaker is turning that unsavoury encounter into motivation to push for better protection for women.

On Friday (May 25), a man by the name of “Azrul” called in during a Facebook Live interview session with Nurul Izzah solely to comment on the way she dressed.

The man told Nurul Izzah to pay more attention to her modesty, saying that he could sometimes see her underwear and breasts when her headscarf is messy.

“YB's tudung is sometimes worn mistakenly, you know, the top part (of your dress) is visible,” the caller said.

“This is especially when you wear tight kebaya, we can see the top of your dress,” he added.

Nurul Izzah seemed surprised by the caller but listened calmly to his advice.

The video clip of the encounter has gone viral with Malaysians lambasting the man for his inappropriate remarks.

On Twitter, Nurul Izzah said she was taken aback by the man's comments during the FB Live session.

“Such invasiveness smacks of the sexism and harassment women have had to endure. We must push back, inculcate better appreciation and treatment of women,” she said.

Nurul Izzah added, however, that she was heartened by the sensitivity and grace of Malaysians who came to her defence and that of women everywhere.

Malaysians said this highlighted the need for a Sexual Harassment Act or comprehensive laws against stalking and harassment of women, to which Nurul Izzah agreed.

“Looking forward to reminding Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to bolster laws that protect women in this country,” she said, referring to her mother who is also Women and Family Development Minister.

Malaysia currently does not have a specific sexual harassment law despite multiple calls for them to be enacted.

Civil society and survivors of sexual harassment have been lobbying for a standalone act, saying that there is a big gap in Malaysia's legal framework in terms of sexual harassment.

The Human Resource Ministry has a Code of Practice for the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace while the Employment Act 1955 has a clause requiring employers to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment.

Section 509 of the Penal Code states whoever with the intention to insult the modesty of any person can be punished with up to five years' imprisonment or a fine.


   

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