Addressing sexual harassment during movement control order

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Deserted streets during coronavirus lockdown - Photograph: wjboyz/Flickr

The All-Women’s Action Society (Awam) would like to remind everyone that sexual harassment is wrong, even under the movement control order

The movement control order (MCO), which is aimed at reducing and restricting the spread of the coronavirus, has highlighted several issues – one of which has been the increase in sexist language over social media especially – but also much recently, a case of sexual harassment has been brought to our attention, allegedly involving the use of vulgar slang by an enforcement officer at a checkpoint.
 
While there is a huge sense of gratitude to all the frontline personnel in all sectors – health, hygiene, food aid, mental health aid, domestic violence support, the police and army – we also have to keep in mind that frontline personnel are human too and will also sometimes crack under stress and react in anger or in an upsetting manner.

However there are limits to how people should react under duress, especially when they are in a position of power. Authority tips the scales in favour of the police and the army, and thus they have a responsibility to ensure that power is not abused.

The abuse of power in the alleged sexual harassment case above has left the survivor extremely traumatised. Worse, the survivor is also afraid and unsure how to make a report, under the unusual circumstances of the movement control order.

In this case, Awam would like to remind all parties that sexual harassment can occur anywhere and can be perpetrated by anyone. Sexual harassment refers to an unwanted or unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature and may be committed physically, verbally, non-verbally, psychologically and/or visually, which can or may cause the person being harassed to feel humiliated, offended or threatened.

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On 7 April it was reported that the Inspector General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador announced that he would take action against those who post videos or photographs of police officers stationed at checkpoints in a negative light.

Awam would like to ask survivors and friends of survivors of sexual harassment who might have taken photos to not post them online but instead to submit those photos as evidence when making a police report or when you lodge your case with any NGOs you choose to work with.

Awam is happy to work with the police in any way possible to ensure that such incidents do not happen. Awam would like to remind everyone that sexual harassment is wrong, even under the movement control order and that you can reach out for help and support by calling our helpline at 016 237 4221 or emailing us at telenita@awam.org.my

In the meantime, Awam has shared some tips on its website and social media platforms for women who are alone when driving and shopping during the movement control order, as an aid to ensure their personal safety against sexual harassment.

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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
12 Apr 2020 8.59am

How do you get obsessed with sexual harassment among frontliners who are all geared up in Hazmat gear? You cannot even see who is inside. The situation is so dire that one cannot be thinking of any sexual attraction when one’s life is at stake. There is too much hype on this issue.