Work harder to tackle rape culture, women’s group tells corporations

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today The All Women’s Action Society says companies must educate their workers on gender sensitivity and gender-based violence.

PETALING JAYA: The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) has urged the corporate world to play an active part in protecting the country’s women by standing against the normalisation of rape and other forms of sexual harassment.

Awam programme and operations manager Nisha Sabanayagam said companies must educate their workers on gender sensitivity and gender-based violence through institutionalised training and human resource policies.

She told FMT the group received requests from the corporate world for training on gender-based violence at least once a month, as Awam’s sessions incorporated Malaysian case studies and training materials in Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil.

“Almost 99% of the time, we are approached for our services because a sexual harassment case has happened in the organisation, and companies are seeking solutions to ensure that these incidents are not repeated,” she said.

a close up of a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Nisha Sabanayagam.© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Nisha Sabanayagam.

Awam was most recently contacted by Honda Malaysia after a senior executive had shared a post joking about rape, herpes and AIDS on professional networking site LinkedIn over the weekend.

Following circulation of a screenshot of the post by a former Honda employee, the executive clarified that he did not write the post, but merely shared it as he “found it very hilarious and cynical”.

The company then issued a statement apologising for the “inappropriate and insensitive” post, saying it was conducting an internal investigation into the issue. The post has since been removed while the individual’s LinkedIn page is no longer accessible.

“His post does not represent the view of Honda on the matter and it is against Honda’s values. We do not condone nor will tolerate such behavior online or offline,” said the statement.

Nisha said the consequences of normalising rape on social media only perpetuated “rape culture”, where a woman’s rights and safety were disregarded. She said Awam would continue pushing for the Sexual Harassment Bill despite the suspension of Parliament.

a woman smiling for the camera: Dr Chua Sook Ning.© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Dr Chua Sook Ning.

Clinical psychologist Dr Chua Sook Ning explained that various factors contributed to one’s lack of empathy for gender-based violence, but social norms and values were the most influential.

“It is easy to dismiss this as just one person’s misstep but as the #MeToo movement showed, gender-based violence is far too common in society,” she told FMT.

The first step in bringing real change, Chua said, started with people’s willingness to acknowledge the issue at hand, and work on educating the community from young.

“People model their attitudes after what they perceive to be acceptable to their family and friends, and to the larger society.

”In general, viewing any criminal offence or violence lightly desensitises our community to these very real and horrific events,” she said.

a person posing for the camera: Fatimah al-Attas.© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Fatimah al-Attas.

Meanwhile, sociologist Fatimah al-Attas of International Islamic University Malaysia said education should not be limited to schools, as all levels of society must be taught about consent.

This was because any sort of joke about rape would have direct impact on rape survivors, many of whom struggled with trauma from victim-blaming and social stigma.

“For the general public, it continues to relay a message that sexual violence can be taken lightly, excuses the violence or aggression of the perpetrator and objectifies the victim. The normalising of rape is dangerous,” she said.

Fatimah said there should be more focus on supporting survivors, and holding people accountable for their actions with regard to gender-based violence.

Those seeking help or emotional support for gender-based violence can reach out to Talian Kasih at 15999 or WhatsApp 019-2615999.

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