We should not tolerate harassment

AS a female journalist I am baffled to learn that should we fall prey to sexual harassment while on the job, the cause could be the amount of skin shown, length of our skirts or the tight fit of our dresses.

Ironically, fingers are pointed to the way women dress, while the deeds of the culprit take a backseat.

The Asian Correspondent in its recent report detailed the accounts of two female journalist harassed by politicians.

In response to that, the president of the National Union of Journalists Malaysia was quoted by an online portal as saying that while sexual harassment has been a challenge for female journalists, women should refrain from wearing anything too revealing while on the job.

"In the context of female journalists, particularly attractive ones, this (sexual harassment) can easily happen if both sides reciprocate. The (interaction) could become negative if other factors are involved, such as the way the female journalist communicates, presents herself during an interview, socialises and the limits that she sets," the report quoted him as saying.

"For example, do not wear clothes that are too revealing or sexy, decline interviews at inappropriate places such as nightclubs or a politician's home. Female journalists must have strong integrity and use appropriate ways to obtain news stories."

On top of not dressing revealingly, female journalists were advised to uphold their integrity and "use appropriate ways to obtain news stories".

To set the record straight, I think it is fair to say that journalists who uphold integrity and ethics would not resort to questionable and unethical ways to land a story.

We must not forget that these women are greeted with various obstacles while reporting, one of which being sexual harassment.

We should also note that this is not the first report which highlighted the ordeal of female journalists being sexually harassed. There was a report in November 2016 about two female reporters harassed during a rally.

Let's face it, journalist or not, sexual harassment is everywhere as long as one is a woman.

Honestly, the comment on women's dressing being the possible cause of sexual harassment was predictable.

Society to a large extent has been ingrained with the perception that men are not to be blamed if they are aroused by women wearing revealing clothing.

The onus is then on women to protect their modesty by covering from head to toe.

This may be said time and again, but covered or not sexual harassment exists everywhere.

Recently, there was a viral video of a man being turned on by a mannequin.

And how can we forget the case where a cardboard cut-out of a petrol station employee was "molested" by several men.

These are not even living entities, hence the connotation of too much skin showing being a trigger for sexual harassment doesn't hold water.

As a woman, I can attest to being exposed to certain types of harassment especially on the street which is almost unavoidable.

Cat calls, groping and what we call "eye-rape" are faced by women daily.

One of the things that we often overlook is sexual harassment at the workplace. This can be in the form of lewd comments, jokes or suggestive remarks. In the worst-case scenario it can be physical.

More often than not, the affected women are afraid to speak up out of shame, for fear their reputation will be tarnished, and in some cases to keep their jobs should it involve an employee higher up the hierarchy.

Also, many are still unaware if they are being sexually harassed as they are not able to see the signs.

Women should also be able to draw the line when there is a need and not tolerate any form of misbehaviour.

In closing, I would also like to say that I am tired of all the street harassment and sexual harassment is not acceptable.

Ragananthini reports on business for theSun. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com