Women rights groups call out NUTP sec-gen’s dismissive attitude towards sexual harassment, rape culture

The NSWD Alliance said its proposed 'walkout day' this week was necessary to spread awareness on the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace movement.  — Picture via Twitter
The NSWD Alliance said its proposed 'walkout day' this week was necessary to spread awareness on the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace movement. — Picture via Twitter

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Several women’s groups today have slammed National Union of The Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan for dismissing systemic sexist, rape, abuse and misogynistic culture in schools.

In a joint statement today, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), Bulan Sisters and Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis (WOMEN:girls) said Tan’s dismissive comments, which aim to protect the teaching profession, do not do justice to victims.

“Whilst we agree with Mr Tan in that not all teachers are perpetrators, he refuses to understand that NSWD aims to raise public awareness of the systemic nature of sexual harassment, rape and abuse in schools. 

“It also gives voice to survivors and other civil society stakeholders alike to demand for change. Many teachers are non-perpetrators but practice silence and inaction, instead of immediately reporting the teachers who were perpetrators. 

“NUTP’s focus on reputation damage control connotes a disturbing need to ‘save face’ for the teaching profession, at the expense of the students who are meant to be protected by these perpetrators,” said the statement.

On Wednesday, Tan was asked by Astro Awani to comment on National School Walkout Day (NSWD) yesterday, in solidarity against rape culture and sexual harassment in schools.

Instead of addressing the issue, he questioned the moderators on “facts and data” to prove whether the problem is occurring nationwide.

The rights groups also pointed out that Tan’s questioning for “facts and data” is also indicative of the lack of understanding of sexual harassment among the teaching profession.

“Questioning if the issue indeed 'widespread' allows it to happen quietly in lieu of creating sound protection policies for those who are vulnerable. 

“This also brings to light the concerning lack of understanding amongst some in the teaching profession about the issue of sexual harassment, which comes hand in hand with the challenge of underreporting amongst survivors due to fear of reprisal, insensitivity by figures of authority, especially the immediate reaction of disbelief (as aptly portrayed by Mr Tan), and a lack of survivor-centric redress mechanisms,” said the statement.

“We would also like to point out to Mr. Tan and the NUTP that rape culture is not an all-or-none concept. 

“Rape cases do not need to happen in every school and not everyone needs to be ‘joking about rape’ in order for a society to normalise rape. Sexist attitudes that sanction misogyny and objectification of women’s bodies are the primary yet invisible culprits.

“These attitudes not only drive perpetrators to make rape jokes or worse, actually inflict rape, but also bystanders to not support survivors and refuse to hold perpetrators accountable for their violations,” added the statement.

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