Anyone can become victims of sexual harassment. While women have mostly spearheaded the now global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, male voices are also slowly coming out of the fog in support of the movement and to highlight the plight male victims face too.
While things are definitely changing for the better, the stigma surrounding male victims of sexual harassment is still very present in society. The truth is that men are just as susceptible to sexual harassment as women. In a recent statement by Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development Hannah Yeoh, statistics about reported cases of sexual harassment in Malaysia were revealed at a seminar on “Handling Sexual Harassment at the Workplace” today (14th February).
In a report by The Star, the deputy minister stated that according to statistics from the Royal Malaysian Police, between 2013 and 2017, 257 out of the total 1,218 sexual harassment cases (roughly 21 per cent) involved male victims.
She was quoted as saying,
“The rest of the victims were women; indeed, there have been sexual harassment cases involving male victims.”
“In some instances, they shied away from reporting as they feared that no one would believe them. This was one of the obstacles that prevented them from lodging a report.”
Out of the 1,218 reported cases, 1,187 of these are currently being investigated while another 31 have been charged under Section 509 of the Penal Code.
Hannah Yeoh also added that there are many flaws in mechanisms that are involved in reporting these cases, which is why she believes many incidents of sexual harassment still go unreported.
These statistics come in light of the proposed Sexual Harassment Act. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development is currently awaiting the results of a study that looked into existing laws. These results will work as a guideline to improve existing policies and help form the Sexual Harassment Act.
Yeoh added that this proposed act will also work on punishing those who do not act on sexual harassment reports, shorten the standard operating procedure during investigations, and improving reporting mechanisms to make lodging reports easier for victims.
According to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), sexual assault does not have a specific definition under current Malaysian law, but there are existing laws that cover various forms of sexual assault. You can refer to the list of laws here.
The social stigma surrounding sexual harassment cases also prevents many people from reporting their harrasers, as victims often face blame or backlash from the public. In an expose on the sexual harassment female journalists in Southeast Asia often face, Asian Correspondent reportedly received backlash from readers, many of them blaming the journalists for encouraging their harassers’ behaviour. An excerpt from their follow-up report reads,
“When we published our report on how female journalists in Southeast Asia are sexually harassed by male politicians, we received a barrage of comments from readers. They were angry and sympathetic. But a good deal also blamed the journalists for tempting the behaviour and for not reporting.”
Malaysia’s National Union of Journalists chief even issued a now-retracted statement, advising female journalists to avoid wearing clothes that were “too revealing or sexy”.
Well, let’s hope that with the proposed Sexual Harassment Act, harassers will be held more accountable and victims can undergo better reporting procedures so that justice is served!
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual harassment and need help, you can contact the following organisations that provide aid to all victims regardless of their gender;
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO): +603 7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at +6018 988 8058
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) Telenita Line: 03 7877 0224 or [email protected]
- Women’s Centre for Change Penang (WCC) : +604 228 0342
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