A rejoinder to NUJ president’s remark on ‘sexy’ journalists

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Perpetrators who go unpunished, will continue intimidating, humiliating and traumatising the victims thus resulting, at least, in an unhealthy working environment.”

- Federal Court judge Justice Suriyadi Halim Oma

COMMENT | Since when has dressing appropriately ever stopped some men from harassing, molesting and raping women in Malaysia? This horse manure coming from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Mohd Taufek Razak that sexual harassment is merely a relationship gone wrong is the kind of nonsense that religious authorities claim: that stricter control is needed in the way women behave and think.

Here are some of my points to clarify the matter because there was a whole load of dumbness in the NUJ statement.

“…the issue of sexual harassment faced by female journalists is not new.”

Really? If it is not “new”, then what has the NUJ done about it?

“…suggested that female journalists dress appropriately and be mindful of their conduct.”

Except there is enough empirical evidence in this country and in many so-called “religious states” that harassment, assaults and misogynist behaviour towards women has nothing to do with the way they dress. Indeed, women dressing appropriately has not stopped women from getting harassed or assaulted.

"In the context of female journalists, particularly attractive ones, this (sexual harassment) can easily happen if both sides reciprocate."

Sexual harassment is not about reciprocity. It is about an imbalance of power. It is about specific attitudes certain men, and women, have towards women. Believing that women should dress “appropriately”, for instance, is the kind of attitude that enables men to believe that they can behave any way they want.

“…it was natural for men to be attracted to women and for women to be attracted to men they like, and it was the process that determines whether this devolves into sexual harassment.”

Yes, and it also natural for some men to be attracted to other men and some women to be attracted to other women and some people to self-identify as the opposite gender. But what has this got to do with unwelcome sexual advances? A woman (in this instance) just wants to do her job and a man (enabled by social and religious imbalances) gives her unwanted attention.

Remember, this is a country where the religious police knock down doors to stop Muslims from engaging in consensual sex but who seem oblivious to the harassment that some women face in Malaysia...

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