AWAM, together with the Malaysian public, is strongly advocating the Malaysian Parliament and the Cabinet of Malaysia to take serious action to put a stop to sexual harassment in the country through our AWAM for the Bill campaign. This social media-driven campaign, targeted to Malaysians, aims to raise awareness on and advocacy for passing the Sexual Harassment Bill in Parliament this November 2020. Working with the limitations created by COVID-19, AWAM is collaborating in cyberspace with student organizations, youth groups, social media influencers, celebrities, news portals and the public in general, to create huge amounts of awareness on such a dire and pressing issue.
As part of this campaign AWAM has started a petition to push for the tabling of the Bill, and in the span of just three days, we have obtained over 3000 signatures. We intend to use these numbers in Parliament this November to advocate for the Sexual Harassment Law to be enacted. A draft Sexual Harassment Bill has already been prepared and submitted by a coalition of NGOs and government agencies. The passing of the Sexual Harassment Bill also has bipartisan support. In August this year, AWAM lobbied 22 Members of Parliament on both sides of the divide, who all gave us public support in advocating for the passing of the Bill, in Parliament come November.
AWAM also carried out a survey amongst University Malaya (UM) students in August and September 2020, with the aims of determining the level of awareness of Sexual Harassment and to identify experiences of Sexual Harassment among university students. Exactly 156 university students responded to the survey, out of which 119 were female. The survey results showed that out of the 119 female students who responded, 58 (or 48.7%) have been sexually harassed. Out of the 37 male respondents, it was found that 15 (or 40.5%) male students have been sexually harassed, breaking the myth once more that only females are survivors of sexual harassment. The draft Bill will ensure that both women AND men are protected under the new legislation.
The survey also indicated that 98.3% of the perpetrators who sexually harassed the female survivors were males. Most of these male perpetrators were often strangers who would harass the female survivors in public spaces. This piece of data alone indicates the audacity of men who are brave enough to harass random college-going females because they (the perpetrators) know they can get away with such behaviour. Out of the 58 women who were sexually harassed, 39.6% did not make a report because they did not know what to do or how to go about it. The draft Bill will ensure that all institutions, such as University Malaya, will have the responsibility to ensure that all their students are aware of internal sexual harassment policies. Students, workers, employees, etc. have the right to complain to the relevant authorities if they find that their institutions are not adhering to their internal policies.
In light of these UM survey findings, and of the many Malaysians speaking out about sexual harassment during the MCO, as well as the recent exposé of the vile V2K Telegram group responsible for the dissemination of paid nudes, child pornography, hidden camera footage (CCTV), and lifetime subscriptions to pornographic material, we need and must have a standalone Sexual Harassment law to protect us more than ever. Another day without the Sexual Harassment Act could result in yet another survivor, suffering negative consequences. The impact of sexual harassment can sometimes be fatal. Let us not forget the death of the 17 year old girl in Penang on August 3, 2020 who committed suicide as a result of online sexual harassment by a 20 year old man, who threatened to make her pictures viral if she did not communicate with him.
The Bill would extend the definition of sexual harassment to encompass public spaces and cyberspace, as opposed to just work environments, provide more accessibility, protection, and privacy for survivors as well as looking at sexual harassment cases from the perspective of victims to better handle their cases.
The collective impact of not having a proper law on Sexual Harassment can also adversely affect the entire country. Women who are sexually harassed at work and school, quit and/or drop out, leading to less productive people in the economy, not to mention less money in families with mouths to feed, a situation that will be further exacerbated in the current COVID 19 climate. Families and communities will be affected. The ripple effect continues as the cost of public services for welfare will go up. Similarly for mental health services, as more and more people seek medical attention for depression, anxiety, anger management and suicidal thoughts, all of which are the effects of being sexually harassed.
The Bill would work towards not just making Malaysia a safer space for Malaysians, but also a thriving one where all of us can enjoy a better quality of life.
AWAM calls on all Malaysians to stand alongside us in our call to table the Sexual Harassment Bill in November by signing the petition at http://chng.it/gpCv99TXmQ and joining in our social media challenge: Download AWAM’s own curated frame and post a caption on why we desperately need this bill to be passed. Over 3000 Malaysians have spoken and more will speak. As Malaysians united, let us all humbly but loudly urge YB Rina Harun, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, to table the Sexual Harassment Bill this November 2020. We simply cannot delay this anymore, the time to act is now!
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
8th October 2020