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How a 17-year-old's viral TikTok video shed light on Malaysia's rape culture in schools

How a 17-year-old's viral TikTok video shed light on Malaysia's rape culture in schools

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Text: Eugene Chen

Image: Roma Gavrila
Image: Alycia Fung via Pexels
Image: Elia Pellegrini via Unsplashed

Everyone should feel safe, without the fear of sexual assault. A 17-year-old student, Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, called out her teacher’s insensitive comments about rape on social media

Troubled by her teacher's flippant comments about rape, Ain made a Tik Tok video discussing what had happened in school. Everything seemed normal at first, with the teacher talking to students about sexual harassment and their rights. He then started making a couple of jokes and commented: “So if you want to rape anyone, rape someone above 18.” This shocked the girls in class but seemed to amuse the boys, making them laugh.

@ant33ater

pls make the school environment safer for us, as teachers u have lots of influence with your mindset. ##xyzcba ##tiktokmalaysia

♬ original sound - ain orkid - ain #MakeSchoolASaferPlace

After Ain posted the video on TikTok, many have responded by supporting her courage to call out her teacher’s behaviour. Others have also come out to share their stories of harassment and inappropriate behaviour. Unfortunately, some have decided to dismiss Ain's concerns and went out of their way to respond with rude comments. Even the principal of her school decided to comment on her father’s Facebook, calling her "satan’s spawn" and urging her parents to raise their daughter properly.

Creating safe spaces in schools

The #MeToo movement in 2017 encouraged many women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Ain’s bravery has similarly sparked a nationwide discussion regarding the culture of sexual violence in Malaysia. She created the hashtag #MakeSchoolASaferPlace in hopes of raising awareness concerning sexual harassment in schools, while also encouraging others to share their stories of similar incidents.

Social media has provided a platform for exposing perpetrators; however, the exposure of the victim comes with its reprisals. In response to Ain’s story, Puteri Nuraaina Balqis created an Instagram page @SaveTheSchoolsMY providing a safe space for those who want to share their experience anonymously. Over 200 posts have been uploaded including stories from boys and girls, as well as men and women. Puteri hopes this will bring about change in Malaysia's classrooms: “If people can learn more real-time stories about the horrible culture, then more people will believe in the cause and resonate in solidarity.”

Rape culture in Malaysia

Domestic violence has increased since the implementation of MCO. 90 per cent of rape and molestation cases in Selangor involve underage girl victims. These statistics indicate that the society we live in needs change and reform. In many situations when victims come forward, Malaysian authorities fail to address the issue. The lack of laws and procedures to deal with such issues is part of the problem. We need more regulations that protect victims and hold others accountable for their actions.

To fully understand rape culture in Malaysia, we need to know what are the factors that encourage our society to have this mindset. It is often assumed that Gender-based violence is a result of the inequaities in a patriarchal society. The reality is that other factors are involved, including race, religion, socio-economic conditions, and political affiliation. These factors are the foundation of discrimination, resulting in the devaluation of a person’s rights; thereby establishing these cultures.

Where you can go for help

Here are some resources for those who are going through similar experiences and need to reach out to people who empathise:

All Women's Action Society 

Telenita Helpline: 016 237 4221 

Website | Facebook | Instagram 

Protect and Save The Children

Hotline: 016 721 3065

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Women's Aid Organisation

Hotline: 03 3000 8858

Website | Facebook | Instagram

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