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JANUARY 17 — In recent months, stories of sexual harassment have surfaced and highlight the extent of abusive behaviour made towards women. Men in media and now, in government, have been exposed of their inappropriate behaviour, therefore, the onus is on us to rightly remove them from their positions and publically shame them for their vulgarities.
There have been too many disturbing stories of threatening mannerisms and insulting attitudes towards female elected officials, journalists, activists and athletes. Too many reports have been ignored and swept under the rug; and the lackadaisical attitudes we are forced to deal with will only worsen the situation, therefore, the foulness of sexual harassment must be addressed sufficiently, diligently and promptly.
In the span of two weeks, we have uncovered two gross acts committed against women. The first comes in the form of a Facebook video which has gone viral and was eventually picked up by international portals. A man was seen to have confronted a group of women (exact location is still unknown) and singled out two for not wearing a hijab. After verbally assaulting both, he slapped one of them while the other women watched, silently – which also raises the question — why did the other women fail to act and why were there no police reports lodged against this man?
Regardless of the situation and whatever justification one might have (some have stated that the man in the video was mentally unstable and dismissed the severity of the situation), a man must never inflict physical and mental harm on a woman. What this incidence proves is that the raging insolence and disrespect some factions in our society have towards women have become far more serious than initially thought.
The second was an exposé made by another international news portal which reported of how a female journalist was subjected to lewd and unprofessional behaviour by male politicians. Since then, several reports have also begun to surface and uncover the varying levels of sexual harassment female journalists often face.
Commenting on the report and speaking on behalf of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), its president Mohd Taufek Razak was quoted to have said “female practitioners should mind their appearance while on duty, inducing not dressing sexily, in order to avert sexual harassment”, serving as another back handed slap against women empowerment and gender equality. It simply is not wise to put the blame on women and how we chose to dress because the focus ought to be on how men should exercise common sense and decency to keep their libidos in check. Surely, a man of his stature could have framed his argument differently as this is the 21st century and such reproach is not only counter-productive but intensely nauseating.
Gender discrimination and sexual harassment thrive in male-dominated areas, as society becomes more complex and women take on non-traditional gender roles, there will be resistance from factions who are unable to satiate their own insecurities. Our problems stem from social regression and simply not having enough conversations about the affects of sexual harassment or how such attitudes negate progressivism.
For too long, too many men live lives in societies that have imparted them with an inflated sense of power, where they think they can do and say whatever they want and not be held accountable or liable for their actions. These men are bullies and cowards who are unable to come to terms with the changes of present day society.
In 2017, women should expect improvements in social standings and no longer be forced to play second fiddle. Women should protect each other and should feel empowered enough to report any acts of sexual harassment they face. No one should be put in a position they feel uncomfortable in or made to feel less worthy because of their gender and certainly, not because of how we dress. Discrimination, harassment and rape must never be accepted or tolerated. What should be accepted is the culture that holds predators and bullies answerable for the gross indecencies they foolishly exhibit.
* Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.