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JAG condemns use of rape to silence women who advocate rights

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is appalled at the offensive and misogynist Facebook posting directed at the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said.

The post was uploaded to Facebook page by an alleged group calling itself ‘Otai Bersih’. Using the photograph of the minister, the post overlaid this with the caption “Tiada seorang pun sanggup nak rogol saya (Translation: Nobody is willing to rape me)”. The post in fact undermines the seriousness of violence against women in this country as an issue that is still pervasive, and why it is morally wrong to expect a rape victim to willingly marry her rapist.

This is not the first time a woman is subjected to statements trivialising rape, immaterial of whether they are veiled as jokes.

JAG has witnessed a growing and debilitating online culture of rape threats targeted at women merely because these people do not agree with the views, thoughts or political stands that the woman in question takes.

The act of rape - a heinous form of violence against women is recognised as a serious crime in Malaysia. Multiple studies and researches have reported the devastating consequences of such violent act of trespass and attack on a woman’s body and dignity. This is further compounded by the survivor’s feelings of shame and self-blame.

It is disgusting that such vile tactics are habitually used against women, and especially against women politicians or women who publicly stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.

As the minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Office, Azalina has been a staunch advocate for the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017. Her recent stance against the use of marriage by a rapist as an exoneration from criminal prosecution, has subjected her to criticism and attack by conservative groups.

The Facebook post reflects a recurring symptom in Malaysia where women are consistently discouraged to speak out for their human rights and the human rights of others. Often women are intentionally left out from decision-making processes, positions and spaces despite the reality that women make up about 50 percent of the Malaysian population.

Systemic discrimination, sexism and patriarchal values, rather than lack of leadership qualities are root causes that hinder women from expressing and taking political stance on the integrity of this country. Female politicians are also expected to speak, dress and act in a certain way that conforms to patriarchal values and sexism.

Instead of using arguments of substance, attacks against women who speak out, continue to centre on their body, perceived morality and identity as a woman. Threats and shaming of women based on desirability, beauty, expected conformity to gender norms and stereotypes are problematic. These actions perpetuate existing myths that are dangerous and flawed that negatively impact our understanding of gender discrimination and gender-based violence.

JAG urges all individuals, including government officials, law enforcers, civil society and private citizens alike, to speak out against rape jokes, rape threats and misogynist remarks against any woman; to strongly push back against the normalisation of rape; and to stand for women’s rights to political participation and right to freedom of expression.

Endorsed by the Joint Action for Gender Equality (JAG):

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
Justice for Sisters (JFS)
Perak Women for Women (PWW)
Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (Sawo)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Women’s Aid Organisation (Empower)
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

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