THE recent incident of a rape “joke” by local college freshmen that went viral on social media further underlined the fact that rape culture was very much prevalent in Malaysian society, a women’s rights group said today.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said rape culture in society became evident when threats of sexual harm were dismissed as merely “jokes”.
“Rape culture is the way society and social institutions normalise and permit rape.
“This includes blaming the victim and excusing the perpetrator. Every statement that threatens sexual harm to a woman must be taken seriously. Rape culture enables men to make rape threats – and minimises them as ‘harmless jokes’, Sumitra told The Malaysian Insight through WhatsApp.
“Rape is a real threat to women and girls – it’s not a joke. We must protect and empower victims – not blame or silence them.”
Recently, a boy in a WhatApp group chat of male students from Brickfield’s Asia College (BAC) had talked about raping a first-year mass communication student from IACT college, which shares a campus with BAC.
The female subject of his comment had posted screenshots of the messages on Twitter where they quickly went viral before she took them down upon the advice of BAC staff.
Dissatisfied with what she claimed was intimidation by the college, the female student again took to Twitter to air her grievances.
“I was supposed to go in for a ‘talk’ with both parties but it ended up being me against 3 other former law students who knew how to win,” she said in one of her tweets.
BAC responded by saying they had contacted the victim immediately out of concern for her safety as she had displayed her personal details and phone number in her tweets.
In an interview today with The Malaysian Insight, BAC managing director Raja Singham denied the female student’s claims that the meeting with her was meant to intimidate her.
“The main reason we called her in first was because there was an immediate danger which we perceived her to be in,” he said.
Singham also dismissed criticisms that the boy, who had just enrolled at the college this month, had been let off without any punishment for his actions.
He said the boy had been suspended indefinitely until he completed 100 hours of community service.
Singham said the college had consulted external lawyers before taking action against the boy who had made the rape remark.
“Legally, can we take action against this boy for what he said in a private Whatsapp group, which was then taken and shown to the girl?
“And the other boys in the group who didn’t say anything, do we take action against them too? If we take action, what kind of action?
“We don’t want to just punish; we want to rehabilitate, if anything,” said Singham.
WAO’s Sumitra said the ambiguity of existing laws with regards to the different forms of sexual harassment made it difficult to punish offenders.
She said the college, and other educational institutions, should have a consistent policy to handle sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, adding that students needed to be educated in what was considered acceptable language and behaviour, and what constituted sexual harassment. – April 26, 2017.