Speaking up: More victims recount sexual harassment in schools on social media

PETALING JAYA: With the hashtag #MakeSchoolASaferPlace trending on Twitter, a teenage girl’s viral tweet about her teacher making rape jokes in school has now inspired others to also raise awareness about sexual harassment.

For instance, the Instagram account @savetheschoolsmy has been created in solidarity with the student, whose teacher had trivialised rape and whose schoolmate issued a rape threat against her.

The Instagram account publishes the submitted stories of anonymous victims who had experienced sexual harassment in schools, whether it is from their peers or teachers.

An individual recounted how her name and phone number was painted on the wall of a tunnel that fellow students frequently passed through after she rejected the advances of another student

The graffiti also included the words “1 cucuk RM1” (one time RM1), insinuating that she offered sex services.

Yet another shared how her friend, at that time 11 years old, had been exchanging messages with an older man who had also asked about her private parts.

“My friend started feeling uncomfortable and told me about it. Later I found out that the guy was actually my very own Mathematics teacher. She was 11, he was probably 25," the person recounted.

One other group who started an initiative in solidarity with the teenage student was Harmoni Malaysia.

The group of university student activists started a campaign where people upload photos of themselves holding placards with the relevant hashtags.

“The culture of making rape jokes has to stop because it is making schools no longer safe for female students, ” it said on its Twitter account.

Following the viral tweet, many public figures have also come out in support of the teenage girl and condemning sexual harassment faced by students in schools.

Comedians Harith Iskander and Adibah Noor have shared the student’s tweets, with Harith saying “I stand with bravery”.

Pengerang MP and Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said that rape, actual or implied, must be taken seriously.

“When men become gatekeepers for other men on this matter, we know for certain that the fabric of our society is utterly damaged, ” she said.

Former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik said that rape is not a joke and that a rape threat is still a threat.

“Normalising sexual harassment is itself immoral, ” he had said.

Another former education minister - Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid - has also called for stern action against the teacher if it is proven that such an incident occurred.

“The incident is a disgrace to the teaching institution in the country. In whatever situation, such a matter should not be used as a joke because rape itself is a criminal act, ” he said.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin has also lambasted the teacher’s action, adding that the matter should not be taken lightly by the school authorities.

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