Local uni slammed online for women’s dress code to ‘avoid sexual harassment’

Tan Mei Zi
The infographic implied that bright lipstick, short sleeves, and tight clothing could lead to sexual harassment. — Screengrab from Twitter/ohpaten

PETALING JAYA, June 20 — A recent Facebook post made by the students’ representative council of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) sparked controversy for providing “tips” on how to avoid being a victim of sexual harassment.

The original post, now deleted, included an infographic which showed illustrations of women in hijab along with explanations on why their outfits were “inappropriate”.

The list of clothing choices which the university’s student reps claimed could lead to sexual harassment included wearing bright lipstick, having short sleeves, and wearing a hijab which does not cover the chest.

Screenshots shared by Twitter user ohpaten have been retweeted more than 1,700 times and caused outrage amongst Malaysians against the university for putting the onus of preventing sex crimes on victims.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also liked a tweet denouncing the university’s stance on the issue.

Twitter user chicarosa cited the cases of rape and murder victims Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, eight, and Noor Suzaily Mukhtar, 24, as evidence that attire can do little to prevent such brutal crimes in the first place.











Women’s rights group All Women’s Action Society (Awam) penned an open letter to UUM’s students’ representative council criticising the post, noting that sexual harassment was a complex issue that involved women regardless of what they may be wearing.

“Sexual harassment is not a one-dimensional issue that can be resolved simply by covering up,” read the letter.

Awam noted that sexual harassment has been normalised as a result of constantly hearing statements like, “boys will be boys”, “girls like it when you do that”, and “diorang main-main je (they’re just fooling around)”.

“Repeatedly bringing attention to the mode of dress in the context of sexual harassment is an exercise in futility,” they wrote.

In a recent survey conducted by Awam, 60 per cent of schoolgirls aged 14 to 17 reported experiencing sexual harassment, mainly through verbal means such as catcalling, sexual innuendos, or jokes.

The study noted that almost all 35 respondents wore the hijab and dressed modestly in their daily lives.

Instead of putting pressure on women alone, Awam proposed understanding the power and privileges that govern interactions between the sexes as a solution to the issue.

They also offered to give a talk at UUM about sexual harassment as well as a meeting with the students’ representative council to foster a better understanding of gender-based violence.

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