Women’s Aid Organisation urgently demands the government to table the Sexual Harassment Bill and to create a framework to protect students from harassment and predatory behaviour.
We call on Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun and Education Minister Mohd Radzi Jidin to take the experiences of students in our learning institution very seriously and push ahead with the promise of tabling the bill.
The most recent expose on a UiTM Dengkil lecturer’s predatory behaviour towards students and former students of the institution is only the tip of the iceberg and is alarming. This comes after months of reports and revelations of harassment and harassment-enabling behaviour by students such as Ain Husniza and those who came forth on ‘period checks’. There has been a string of reports from other higher education institutions, including premier institutions such as University of Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia.
As reported by SAYS.com, 15 students have come forward and exposed the UiTM lecturer in a Twitter discussion about higher education pathways in Malaysia, following the recent release of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results.
Screenshots shared by ex-students show ‘jokes’ by the lecturer, about viewing his students with a “horny face”, staring at a student’s breasts and sneaking students into his office on campus to conduct “fun business”. One victim detailed his flirtatious replies to her stories on social media, while other reports indicate sexual grooming by asking students to submit personal relationship diaries to the perpetrator.
While UiTM has launched an investigation into these allegations, the lecturer is still currently teaching at the university.
These incidents point to a larger issue in managing sexual harassment cases. Previous studies have found that sexual harassment often occurs at educational institutions – a 2019 survey conducted by YouGov found that 22% of respondents who experienced sexual harassment experienced it at educational institutions, while a study conducted and shared in Parliament in September 2019 by the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development involving over 28,000 respondents found that 10% of sexual harassment survivors said it happened in educational institutions.
Ultimately, survivors are at the mercy of individual policies and guidelines of their universities and schools, where existent. The absence of a standardised framework for the prevention and management of sexual harassment cases enables institutions to protect perpetrators absolving them of accountability. This protects individuals in positions of power, such as lecturers. This is extremely dangerous and detrimental for student survivors, as evidenced in the poor management of Universiti Malaya’s Integrity Unit last year.
A poll on sexual harassment conducted by the All Women’s Action Society (Awam) found that 59% of respondents did not report the incident, with one reason being fear of repercussion as the perpetrator was in a position of power.
Sexual harassment must be stopped. We must not protect perpetrators any longer and the Ministry of Women and Ministry of Education are directly mandated to keep students safe from sexual exploitation. The government’s commitment to human rights, under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and most importantly to Malaysians, must be upheld.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim)
Demokrat Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Siswa Solidariti USM
Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
The 111 Initiative
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Persatuan Belia Harmoni Malaysia (Harmoni Malaysia)