It’s been a little over 2 months since MCO was imposed on the citizens of Malaysia. This drastic yet necessary action is done by the government to ultimately take care of the rakyat’s health against the widespread infection of the Covid-19 virus.
Sexual harassment cases has increased since MCO
In a statement by AWAM, Bandar Utama ADUN Jamaliah Jamaluddin and Kampung Tunku ADUN YB Lim Yi Wei received racist, sexist threats and violent threats of rape and murder via Facebook. Ms Jamaliah had lodged a police report about the incident.
Throughout the MCO, AWAM has received multiple complaints of sexual harassment. In fact, 18.5% of all cases which comes through our helpline is made up of sexual harassment cases.
Online sexual harassment accounts for 41.7% of these sexual harassment cases.
Some disgusting cases include:
- One that was sexually harassed by quarantine center staff – her hotel room was broken into as the harasser sent her pictures (via her mobile) of her undergarments that were in her room.
- One survivor who’s mentally challenged received pictures of animals having sex from her boss
- One victim’s pictures were shared (without her permission) in a Whatsapp group with male members amounting to the hundreds.
Many don’t realise how severe the impact is for sexual harassment
The severity of online sexual harassment cannot be undermined – this has been proven in the recent case of Thivya Nayagi, whose cyberbullying and online sexual harassment resulted in her committing suicide. Some of the Facebook users commented on a video of her, calling her ‘easy’ as they speculated she was dating a foreigner – which is NOT true.
Online Sexual Harassment is particularly harmful in the sense that it causes alarm and distress, compromising a person’s mental integrity at a time where people are dealing with psychosocial issues, financial issues, and job insecurity during the MCO.
As more and more people are stuck at home, it seems that they are now resorting to online media and communications, as a result of social distancing. Many are taking advantage of the fact that they can be anonymous online and thus express their feelings of discontent through sexist comments, jokes, and in some cases, sexual harassment.
Sterner actions need to be taken by authorities
The Sexual Harassment Bill and the proposed Anti-Stalking amendment to the Penal Code would go a long way in giving survivors security and most importantly, to demand accountability through a legal process where their personal, physical, mental and emotional security has been threatened or compromised. It would also serve as a prevention tool and teach Malaysians to have respect for their fellow citizens in all spaces, online or otherwise.
AWAM urges IGP Abdul Hamid Bador and the MCMC to work together to investigate these cases as soon as possible so that the survivors may return to their day-to-day activities without fear of sexual harassment. The lack of accountability that is often perceived as social permission in cases of online sexual harassment, reinforces ideas that devalue and sexualize women and is very likely to be replicated in real life as well. Authorities must nip this social ill in the bud before it becomes a huge societal problem that will be even more difficult and complicated to handle.