Health Ministry slammed online for victim-blaming sexual harassment article, other questionable posts still up

Tan Mei Zi
·3-min read
Photo 1 - The victim-blaming narrative in the article has been harshly criticised on social media. — Pixabay pic
Photo 1 - The victim-blaming narrative in the article has been harshly criticised on social media. — Pixabay pic

PETALING JAYA, April 13 — The Health Ministry has come under scrutiny for an article that blames sexual harassment on a woman’s physical appearance.

The now-deleted post was originally published on the ministry’s MyHealth portal in 2016 with the title “Emotional Impact on Sexual Harassment Victims.”

The article cited “physical attractiveness”, a “charming personality”, and a “sexy body shape” as factors that “invite” unwanted sexual attention from men.

The author also claimed that a woman who dresses sexily will “indirectly” cause sexual harassment to occur.

“Women or girls do dress up in a very sexy way simply to reveal parts of their bodies assuming that it’s beautiful and sexy in the eyes of others.

“Yes it’s sexy and beautiful yet they forget that it indirectly lead (sic) to sexual harassment as the opposite sexes are tempted to do so,” read the article.

Other causes of sexual harassment listed in the post were unrestricted social interactions between men and women, uneven power dynamics between the sexes, and a cultural climate that forces men to bully “naive and sexually weak girls” to fulfil their masculine ego.

The author did not provide any scientific studies or research to back up the claims in the article, instead only listing four citations including an online blog and a Google search.

The Health Ministry has been slammed on social media after screenshots of the article made the rounds online yesterday.

Segambut MP and former women, family and community development deputy minister Hannah Yeoh also called out the article on her Twitter page last night, calling it “absolutely wrong.”

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Non-profit organisation All Women’s Action Society (Awam) also weighed in on the post, labelled its victim-blaming narrative as “unacceptable.”

“A (government-run) website spreading misinfo about survivor-related characteristics as primary causes of sexual harassment, when the ONLY causes are power imbalance and patriarchal norms?

“This is seriously unacceptable,” Awam wrote in a tweet which also tagged the Health Ministry’s official Twitter account.

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MyHealth took down the article shortly after it came under fire on social media.

The sexual harassment article isn’t the only questionable piece of information on the MyHealth portal.

A separate article on sexual harassment in the workplace from May 2017 concluded that women are “responsible” for safeguarding their dignity from men who are “sex crazy.”

The article, which is still available to view at press time, does not make any mention of what men can do to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace.

Other posts on the MyHealth portal also contain anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) sentiments, with one article using a slur to refer to transgender people.

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