KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — Civil society groups and many other individuals on social media are up in arms against teenager Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam’s ex-teacher suing her for defamation because she exposed his making a rape joke in class.
A statement, endorsed by 121 associations and 68 individuals, expressed how they were appalled by the letter of demand (LOD) Ain received, calling for the teacher involved to retract the suit and issue an apology to the student.
They said Ain’s case is not the first time alleged perpetrators have accused whistleblowers of defamation, pointing out the absence of specific laws to address such forms of sexual harassment only leaves victims in a more vulnerable position as culprits initiate legal action in the pursuit of “clearing their name”.
“These victims, who are usually in less powerful positions, are not only vulnerable to re-traumatisation, but also to further harassment and unnecessary scrutiny.
“Such legal threats set dangerous precedents. It is utterly reprehensible that a victim speaking up against a sexual violation should be threatened with defamation. Allowing such claims would make a travesty of justice.”
The group pointed out how the matter cannot be just laid to rest without a clear resolution, saying rape jokes as alleged by Ain are a form of sexual harassment and should not go unaddressed.
“A rape joke is verbal sexual harassment. It not only violates the dignity of women and girls by objectifying them as targets of sexualised violence, but also normalises such violence as part of the status quo.
“Out of respect for the integrity of the teaching profession, we urge the teacher in question to retract his letter of demand to Ain, and to issue an apology accordingly,” read the statement.
This came after Ain and her father Saiful Nizam Abdul Wahab had on Wednesday revealed she received an LOD seeking RM1 million as compensation for defamation from a teacher she alleged made a rape joke in class.
The teacher involved had also lodged a police report against Ain, who today had her statement recorded at the Sungai Buloh district police headquarters to assist in the investigations.
The group’s statement today also urged the Ministry of Education (MOE) to disclose the findings of their investigations into the alleged incident of the rape joke being told by the teacher during Ain’s physical education class.
It said further silence from the ministry will only suggest sweeping the issue under the carpet, an approach the ministry has used before more than once, the group claimed.
“In May 2021, the MOE announced that the teacher would be transferred pending the police investigation. Over the years, we have seen cases of sexual misconduct by teachers where they were simply transferred to another school or position without clear disciplinary action being taken against them.
“We therefore call upon the MOE to disclose the outcome of the internal inquiry into the incident, as a matter of great public interest.
“Finally, we call upon the public to support and stand in solidarity behind Ain Husniza. Our children deserve better when they speak up for their rights.”
The statement was issued by the All Women’s Action Society, where among the 121 signatories were the Association of Women Lawyers, Justice for Sisters, the Women’s Aid Organisation, Tenaganita, Sisters in Islam, Amnesty International Malaysia, the Centre for Independent Journalism, G25 Malaysia, IDEAS Malaysia, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan, the Undi18 movement, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, and Yayasan Chow Kit.
Among the individuals who also endorsed the statement were Malaysia United Democratic Alliance co-founder Radzi Tajuddin and his vice presidents Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier and Lim Jiet Wei, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Daphne Iking, and G25’s Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin.
Ain made headlines in April after complaining on social media platform TikTok about a teacher joking about rape, sparking a nationwide debate on sex education and systemic misogyny which also prompted other girls and women to share similar experiences.
In May, the Education Ministry said the teacher involved would be transferred to the Selangor Education Department pending a related police investigation.
However, yesterday, Sungai Buloh police chief Superintendent Shafa’aton Abu Bakar said the deputy public prosecutor in charge of the case had decided it required no further action.
Aside from the teacher, Ain had also lodged two police reports against schoolmates for threatening her with rape following her expose. She later withdrew these after the students and their families apologised.