PETALING JAYA: The All-Women’s Action Society (Awam) wants more measures to be in place to avoid a recurrence of the rape joke issue.
While applauding the Education Ministry for transferring the teacher who allegedly made rape comments in Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam’s class on April 23, Awam said the rape joke is only but one incident in a systemic culture of sexual harassment and bullying in educational institutions in Malaysia.
“In an effort to more comprehensively understand how pervasive this phenomenon is, Awam has collected and analysed 275 testimonials, of which 269 were shared by two social media influencers, and six directly by survivors who approached them via WhatsApp and Instagram,” Awam said in a statement.
“These stories were shared within the space of 10 days from April 16 to 26 and upon analysing the situation we found that 125 cases involved period spot checks, 108 included bullying and 88 included sexual harassment,” they said.
Many survivors, according to Awam, experienced more than one form of violation.
Of the 108 survivors who revealed their ages when they were sexually harassed or bullied, 91.6% were children.
“The age subgroup of 13 to 15 years old, when students (especially girls) experience pubertal changes, was found to be the stage when sexual harassment and bullying were most prevalent among survivors,” they said.
“Perpetrators were predominantly figures of authority. Out of 311 perpetrators, 247 or 79.4% were teachers, ustazah, ustaz and wardens. While there were student perpetrators such as prefects and senior students, in especially cases of period spot checks, these violations were committed in the context of a normalised practice that was openly sanctioned and enforced by teachers, ustazah and ustaz,” they added.
As the primary body nationally in charge of the safety and welfare of students across the country, Awam stressed that it is crucial that the ministry swiftly prioritise and implement long-term solutions to ensure that educational institutions in Malaysia can become safe spaces.
“While we understand that not all teachers and wardens are perpetrators, the number that are perpetrators will leave long term negative effects on the school’s system.,” they said.
Additionally, Awam suggested long-term solutions such as the following - working with relevant civil society organisations such as Awam to implement gender sensitisation training among school authorities nationally to inculcate fundamental awareness of gender roles, power, physical boundaries, consent and gender-based violence and establishing a working relationship with Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia to provide the necessary support for teachers who are also their school’s counsellors to better understand the working ethics of a counsellor and be able to provide quality assured counselling services.
Others included working with relevant civil society organisations and gender experts to revise the curriculum in teacher training colleges to include topics on gender awareness and sensitivity, so that future generations of teachers and educators do not perpetuate rape and sexual harassment culture and to improvise the existing teachers’ code of conduct in teachers’ colleges or training institutions to include sexual harassment, abuse and bullying, subsequently enforcing it nationally.
“Implementing a monitoring and evaluation system and other supportive measures and interventions that promote gender equality, and girls’ and women’s empowerment should also be considered. Being a signatory to many international agreements that affirm the principles of empowerment, gender equality and justice, we fully support Malaysia’s unstinting efforts towards meeting its global commitments and we believe by domesticating these efforts, Malaysia will fully achieve the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development’s objective of ‘leaving no one behind’,” they said.