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HomeWorld NewsWorld News | Universities find they cannot silence victims of sexual assault

World News | Universities find they cannot silence victims of sexual assault

World News | Universities find they cannot silence victims of sexual assault

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 (360info) Justice won’t come to student Farah Azuin Abdul Razak until September 2022, some 15 months after she first reported she was sexually harassed by a lecturer at the University of Technology Mara (UiTM). Her complaints to university management were initially ignored, prompting her to speak out on social media.

This digital activism has had a major impact on university policy and has changed the attitudes of university administrators to violence against women. Continued pressure and activism by victims, members of the public and civil society has brought the University to attention.

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The stories that have happened in Malaysian education in recent years are too shocking to be true. When 17-year-old student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam exposed her school’s laziness in handling and taking appropriate action against her teacher for making rape jokes at students, the teacher decided to sue Ain for defamation.

These examples reveal the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny in Malaysian educational intuitions.

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Several schools across the country have been found to be conducting spot checks on whether students are menstruating. Muslim women do not say their prayers during menstruation, so the checks were carried out by female teachers who claimed students skipped their prayers by mistake.

Students claim they were roughly treated by teachers who fumbled in their crotches to check for sanitary products. Again, the response from relevant authorities has been slow, and NGOs consider such spot checks to be the least reported form of abuse in schools. The only visible result was a verbal assurance from the Minister of Education that appropriate action had been taken to prohibit such practices.

Higher education institutions have a more rampant and entrenched problem with sexual harassment. Institutions characterized by precarious working conditions and hierarchies facilitate sexual harassment. Research shows that female employees and students are at higher risk of sexual assault or harassment than males.

Due to the sensitivity of the issue, there is currently a lack of data on the true number of sexual harassment cases occurring on Malaysian campuses. But a 2017 survey of 351 respondents from a public university on Malaysia’s east coast found that more than half, mostly women, said they had been sexually harassed.

International students at Malaysian public universities are also vulnerable to threats and harassment on campus, according to a 2019 study.

University students have led the way in pressuring universities and authorities to take action against sexual assault and harassment. Online platforms are the most commonly used tools to achieve this.

In another case in June 2021, multiple current and former students from UiTM came forward to accuse a lecturer of predatory behaviour. Evidence, including screenshots of inappropriate and obscene messages the lecturer sent students, was met with a lukewarm response from the university. As a result, students shared them more widely online.

At the University of Malaya (UM), a student who claimed to be harassed by her lecturer made a police report after hearing nothing back from the university. However, the police decided not to take any further action as they were told the lecturer had already been disciplined by the university. Tiada launched an online petition.

Guru, an online reporting site, called for a reopening and investigation of the case. They believe the lenient response from authorities will deter other victims from coming forward.

NUS has also received numerous misconduct complaints against students and lecturers. Some victims were even subjected to harsh interrogation techniques designed to undermine their claims.

This prompted the university to update its sexual misconduct complaint to reaffirm the institution’s ongoing efforts to foster a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone.

Back at school, during which spot-check questions caused an uproar on Twitter. Civil society groups such as All Women’s Action and the Islamic Sisters condemned the practice and urged the government to take immediate action.

To address this apparently rampant problem, universities could issue clear and concise policies that specifically address sexual harassment. These policies can not only be a tool to prevent sexual harassment on campus, but also provide a mechanism for reporting sexual harassment and taking appropriate action to ensure that issues are addressed fairly, transparently and impartially.

In September 2021, UM introduced a Zero Tolerance Code of Exploitation, Abuse and Sexual Harassment to replace its previous Code of Conduct. The new code of conduct provides more comprehensive coverage of sexual harassment by specifying the definition, type and role of authorities in addressing the issue.

The policy outlines mechanisms for addressing issues from reporting to providing support to victims. The university also reaffirmed its commitment to addressing sexual harassment through training programs to raise awareness and improve existing infrastructure to prevent potential cases from occurring within the university.

In 2020, the Ministry of Education also attempted to amend Act 605, which governs statutory institutions including universities, to include sexual harassment as a serious crime with legal consequences. Slow progress.

While most universities have codes of conduct that include indecent behavior, the emerging harassment cases show that this is not enough to address sexual harassment on campus. It generally does not criminalize sexual harassment, leaving victims to find their own ways of coping with the abuse.

Support systems can help victims as they experience trauma and distress. The attitude of university administrators and authorities towards sexual harassment cases can be improved.

Gender-sensitivity training can be provided to staff and students who handle alleged reporting. Knowing the seriousness of the situation may enable them to push for better policies to address sexual harassment cases. (360info.org)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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