PETALING JAYA: Sisters In Islam (SIS) said there are deep-rooted issues related to the sexual harassment recently faced by Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and that these issues need to be tackled at a more systemic level.
Majidah Hashim, SIS’ communications manager, told FMT that, disturbingly, the deplorable incident which Nurul Izzah faced wasn’t uncommon.
Pointing to the “Ops Sopan” campaign carried out in Kelantan recently, Majidah said it was an example of how a municipal council sanctioned the prescription and policing of how women should and should not dress, doling out punishment to them for non-compliance.
“It is alarming that actions like this are becoming the new normal in our society and that people are conditioned to think that it is okay to publicly judge and call out women over how they dress.
“It is also disturbing that women and girls have grown to internalise these sentiments, and accept that men can tell them how to dress and how to behave.”
She was commenting on calls from two civil society groups for clearer sexual harassment laws in Malaysia after Nurul Izzah was berated by a caller during a live interview on Facebook for not wearing her tudung “properly”.
Majidah said this only served to fuel the flames of gender disrespect in society and that a firm and concerted effort was needed to change this.
But she acknowledged that changing society’s mindset wasn’t easy, especially one that had been reinforced by patriarchy for decades.
“SIS believes that this is why the call for a minimum of 30% representation in the Cabinet is important so that critical mass can be created at the Cabinet in order to push forward laws and policies which are women-centric.”
She added it would also mark a “new era” for Malaysia, where the capabilities and contributions of women at all levels of society weren’t sidelined.
Activist Marina Mahathir, meanwhile, said a sexual harassment law was a must, but it was more important that people were educated from a young age on what was acceptable behaviour and what was not.
“The man who called Nurul Izzah had no clue that he was speaking inappropriately, he thought he was entitled to ‘tegur’ (reprimand) her.
“You never hear of women calling up to ‘tegur’ a male speaker and that alone illustrates the gender inequality, that it’s okay for a man to ‘tegur’ but not a woman.”
Marina said, however, she was glad the public reacted to it so the caller now knew there wasn’t much tolerance for such crass behaviour.