PETALING JAYA: Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto has joined the chorus of criticism against a PKR senator’s call for a sexual harassment law to protect men from being “seduced” into committing crimes such as rape, saying there is no such law in the world.
The human rights activist and international secretary for Wanita DAP questioned why the “disturbing” trend of blaming innocent persons for incest and molest carries on until today.
“I’m appalled by this statement,” she said, referring to Senator Mohd Imran Abd Hamid’s remarks in the Dewan Negara today that men can be influenced to commit acts like rape, molest and incest.
Imran proposed such a law when debating the Syarie Legal Profession (Federal Territories) Bill 2019.
“This is important, we men need to be protected. The actions and clothing of women can seduce us into breaking the law and cause us to be charged with a crime.”
Speaking to FMT, Kasthuri said this made no sense as there are laws in the country that criminalise rape.
“I can’t wrap my brain around this argument. It’s 2019 and the trend of victim-blaming is still continuing.
“These are the types of men who claim ownership over women, who have no regard for respect of women and who are driven by their misogynistic and patriarchal beliefs that women are mere pieces of property and they can take what they want.”
Kasthuri, who is a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality, asked how this logic made sense when it came to rape cases, sexual assault and harassment involving babies, children, mothers and even grandmothers.
“Senators like Imran must not give a bad name to other men out there who respect women and also respect the rule of law as far as violence and sexual violence against women and children are concerned.”
She called on all men and women to condemn victim-blaming, noting that some of them might be victims of sexual assault or violence themselves.
“How many times have we heard the man on the street saying, ‘What was he or she doing out so late at night?’ or ‘Why was he or she wearing this and that?’
“Time and time again, it is always the victim’s fault.”
Kasthuri expressed hope that a sexual harassment bill will be tabled soon, with its contents made public on the Parliament website to get feedback from stakeholders.
She said this will ensure that such a Bill will be comprehensive and will not leave anyone out in any field of employment or even in education.
Everyone who has been a victim of sexual harassment must be protected by the law, she said.
The government is withholding the tabling of such a bill in Parliament pending the completion of a feasibility study.
The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) had earlier criticised Imran’s views, saying moral policing has not worked in the past.
‘Listen to the victims’
Former Association of Women Lawyers president Goh Siu Lin said the focus here should be on educating abusers, harassers or rapists and making those who violate the rights of others accountable.
“If Imran is sincere in making our country safer for women and children and many other victims of sexual crimes (not all women), then he should begin listening to the victims, respect them as people and dispel the fallacy that men have uncontrollable sexual urges that cannot be reined in,” she said.
Goh added, “simple concepts” such as consent before any sexual interaction takes place or to treat one another as equals and with respect “should suffice” to “protect” men from sexual crimes.
Meanwhile, human rights watchdog Suaram called for Imran to immediately issue a public apology and retract his remarks, saying such claims were “absurd”.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said such remarks also perpetuate the culture of impunity where the victim is further victimised for a crime inflicted upon them.
“It is equally appalling that there was no immediate censure against the senator by the presiding deputy speaker at the time nor other senators in the upper house.
“The fact that a senator was able to utter such remarks shows the level of ignorance and apathy towards gender-based violence and gender discrimination among lawmakers within Dewan Negara.”
Sevan said Imran and those who agreed with his views must be directed to attend courses on gender equality and gender-based violence “to put an end to such a farce” in Parliament.