Addressing Sexual Harassment During the MCO

The Movement Control Order (MCO), which is aimed to reduce and restrict the spread of COVID-19, has also highlighted several issues – one of which has been the increase in sexist language over social media especially – but also much recently, a case of sexual harassment has been brought to our attention, allegedly involving the use of vulgar slang by an enforcement officer at a checkpoint.

While there is a huge sense of gratitude to all the frontliners in all sectors – health, hygiene, food aid, mental health aid, domestic violence support, the police and army – we also have to keep in mind that frontliners are human too, and will also sometimes crack under stress and react in anger and/or an upsetting manner.

However there are limits in how people should react under duress, especially when they are in the position of power. Authority tips the scales in favour of the police and the army, and thus they have the responsibility to ensure that the power is not abused.

The abuse of power in the alleged sexual harassment case above has left the survivor extremely traumatised. Worst, the survivor is also afraid and unsure of how to make a report, under the unusual circumstances of the MCO. In this case, AWAM would like to remind all parties that sexual harassment can occur anywhere and can be perpetrated by anyone. Sexual harassment refers to an unwanted or unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature, and may be committed physically, verbally, non-verbally, psychologically and/or visually, which can or may cause the person being harassed to feel humiliated, offended or threatened.

Today, it was reported that  the IGP Abdul Hamid Bador had announced that he will take action against those who post videos or photographs of police officers stationed at checkpoints in a negative light. AWAM would like ask survivors and friends of survivors of sexual harassment who might have taken photos to not post them online but instead to submit those photos as evidence when making a police report, or when you lodge your case with any NGOs you choose to work with.

AWAM is happy to work with the police in any way possible to ensure that such incidences as the above do not happen. AWAM would like to remind everyone that sexual harassment is wrong, even under the MCO and that you can reach out for help and support by calling our helpline at 016-237-4221 or emailing us at In the meantime, AWAM has shared some tips on their website and socmed platforms for women who are alone when driving and shopping during the MCO, as a aid to ensure their personal safety against sexual harassment.

Issued by:
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)

7 APRIL 2020