Check rise in cases of online sexual harassment during MCO, says group

Cyberbullying and online harassment have increased during the movement control order period, says the All Women’s Action Society.

PETALING JAYA: A women’s rights NGO said the movement control order (MCO) has brought about a spike in cases of online sexual harassment, and urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and police to take sterner action to protect women.

The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) said the authorities cannot afford to downplay the severity of online sexual harassment, citing the recent alleged suicide of 20-year-old Thivyaanayagi Rajendran.

It also lamented a lack of enforcement from the authorities when it came to taking action against cyberbullying and online harassment.

Awam said it had been told of at least two cases of sexual harassment involving staff at quarantine centres.

“One survivor claimed that her hotel room was broken into as the harasser sent her pictures (via her mobile) of her undergarments that were in her room,” it said in a statement today.

It said 18.5% of calls received on its helpline were related to sexual harassment cases, of which more than 40% comprised online cases.

Awam said many were making use of anonymous social media accounts to make sexist comments, jokes or blatant harassment, and warned that this was particularly harmful in a time of already existing financial, psychological and job issues.

“The Sexual Harassment Bill and proposed anti-stalking amendment to the Penal Code would go a long way in giving survivors security and, most importantly, to demand accountability through a legal process.

“It would also serve as a prevention tool and teach Malaysians to have respect for their fellow citizens in all spaces, online or otherwise,” it said.

It called on Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador and the MCMC to cooperate in probing these cases and to resolve the issue before it became a bigger social ill.

“The lack of accountability, that is often perceived as social permission in cases of online sexual harassment, reinforces ideas that devalue and sexualise women and is very likely to be replicated in real life as well,” it said.

Awam also said the recent threats of rape and murder received by Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lim Yi Wei were only an instance of such cases happening currently.

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