Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., ​“We are made by history”;​ so it’s important that we touch base with the history of women’s rights in Malaysia for a firmer grasp on how we want to shape our future.

Ever since Malaysia gained Independence in 1957, girls and women in Malaysia have always had open access to education. However, it came with more constrictions and cultural rules, as compared to their male counterparts. Hence why women aimed for simpler positions such as clerks, typists, and teachers. Only in the 1970s did we start seeing girls courageously crossing the barrier, persevering, and proving the earlier stigmas wrong – that women were not suitable for “manlier” jobs involving technical education, engineering, or even court duty.

Regardless of women progressing in education, as well as the country developing more and more everyday, and in spite of the policies set by the government to support women’s entry and retention at the workforce, barriers such as lack of mentoring, stereotyping, and being excluded from networks still exists.

People across the world have many misperceptions about equality: we underestimate women’s experience of sexual harassment, and are overly optimistic about when economic and pay equality will be achieved. In reality, women in the Malaysian workforce still face unjust challenges every single day.

A ​survey done by Women’s Aid Organisation shows that up to 21% of women have encountered a form of sexual harassment, but many are still misinformed on what entails as sexual harassment in the workplace. Many still think that behaviours that their colleagues do, such as unwelcomed touching or grabbing, stalking or repeatedly making advances after being rejected, as “unprofessional behaviour”. Education on women’s safety and rights need to be boosted to ensure that women know that they are being treated respectably and just.

In June 2016, women accounted for only 15.2% of director positions in the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange). According to ​this study by the Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, 75% agree that the stereotypes about women’s abilities and roles still exist in the industry and 51.9% receive less mentoring than men in this industry. The ‘glass ceiling’, which still exists in most organisations, acts as the biggest barrier in women advancing in their careers.

The ‘glass ceiling’ refers to the invisible barriers that prevents qualified women from reaching their full potential within their company. Women are inclined to be over-represented in the junior level, but under-represented at the senior level in a company. It has resulted in a disadvantageous effect on the economy and morale of any organisation.

Unfortunately, there are many who still perceive women as weak, unable to carry out certain roles, or that women are only to play the “caring” roles in organizations. This phenomenon is also known as ​“Stereotype Confirmation Bias​”, and it happens when leaders confirm their stereotypes while filtering out all other examples. This adds on to the factor of discrimination.

According to a ​survey done by Women’s Aid Organisation, 56% of working women have experienced one or more types of gender discrimination at the workplace, including being asked personal questions regarding their marital or family status, being tasked to perform jobs that are not asked of men in the same position, receiving questions or comments about their ability to perform certain tasks, and being omitted from promotions even though their qualifications surpass the other candidates.

What To Do If You Encounter Discrimination?

If you feel that you are being discriminated against, there are many organisations that you may reach out to seek help. You can consider getting in touch with:

  • The Human Resource Department (who deals with internal grievances)
  • The Malaysian Labour Office
  • Your Trade Unions

The first thing to do would be to contact the Human Resource Department to find out about your company’s grievance processes. If the situation cannot be resolved internally, you may escalate it further to the labour office.

Although there has been significant progress in the representation of women in the workplace, women are still far from being seen as an equal. Katherine Davis, the former Managing Director of IPSOS in Malaysia said, “Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable. Standing up for women’s rights and development is standing up for the global good”. We need to keep spreading awareness on this issue and keep talking about it in our conversations in order for real change to take place!

Did you know that in Malaysia:

These are the dire consequences of undetailed sexual health education. 

In a society such as ours, sexual health isn’t counted as physical health – it’s a subject that’s actually avoided. Youths are taught the very bare necessities, leaving too much room for misinformation. This has caused many to make harmful decisions, including baby dumping, having teenage pregnancies, and spreading sexually-transmitted infections.

It has become crucial for us to openly start acknowledging sexual health in order to protect our physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as others’. But how do we turn this taboo topic, which continuously sparks criticism, into a positive dialogue? 

We asked Jasmine King (a sex positive advocate, speaker and sexual health educator), for her advice on breaking the stigma and normalising conversations around sex. She currently does this on her Instagram page, Jas Explains, where she promotes sexual empowerment by creating educational content, sparking important conversations and sharing sex positive resources.

What exactly is sexual health?

According to WHO, sexual health is the “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. In ensuring everyone receives adequate sexual health, it is important for us to have:

Simply put, sexual health encompasses everything that is connected to our sexual wellbeing, whether it be reproduction, relationships, laws and reforms, or diseases and dysfunctions.

 

What are the common misconceptions Malaysians have about sexual health?

A common one would probably be that sexual health is only about sex and the health of our reproductive organs, but it spans beyond that. It’s about health and rights, as well as the social aspect of sex. This encompasses our reproductive health and rights, sexual relationships, knowledge and education, diseases and dysfunctions, sexual violence like harassment or abuse, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation.

 

Why is it so important?

It’s important because sexual health is an aspect of our health, and despite the taboo and stigma that’s attached to it, it’s still very much important for us to educate ourselves on it – despite being married or not, young or old. Usually sexual health is only prioritized when couples want to start a family or when something traumatic happens like abuse/harassment.

 

How can we overcome sexual shame as a society?

A first big step to overcoming sexual shame is to first of all educate ourselves. We need to unlearn years of education and beliefs, which are masked by layers of taboo, stigma and shame, and relearn everything again from the start. By relearning and normalizing the conversation, we are then able to provide a safe space to educate others and receive without judgement.

 

As individuals, what are the benefits of overcoming sexual shame?

It releases us from some of the shame, judgement and fear that we carry. Sex and our bodies are a normal and healthy part of our lives and should be treated with respect, instead of disgust and shame. By allowing ourselves to overcome shame, we would be able to fully embrace our sexual and sensual side instead of fearing them.

 

What does it mean to be sex positive?

Someone who is sex positive values consent, communication, education that allows people to make informed choices about their bodies, and pleasure. They respect and do not judge those who consensually practise diverse sexuality and gender expressions.

 

As sex is a religious stigma here, how can we promote a more sex positive culture?

We can do this by not focusing so much on the term ‘sex’ and changing the language to make it more accessible and neutral for everyone. Hence why, sex education is also known as ‘comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)’ and sex positivity is also referred to as ‘positive sexuality’. Changing the language as well as acknowledging that it’s more than just about sex can promote a more sex positive culture. CSE covers an array of topics which includes:

Etc.

For more information on sexual health, tune into Jasmine’s podcast, I Wish Someone Told Me, to hear stories by Asians, or those living in Asia, on gender, sexuality, dating, intimacy and sexual empowerment. You can also follow @iwishthepod and @jasexplains on Instagram for more sex positive content and resources!

Whenever we introduce ourselves as a wellness website, we’re thought to cover yoga and meditation and positivity, but that’s not wellness – it’s a very narrow area, which has been so commercialized that it distracts from the true definition of wellness: “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort”. Not toxic positivity or veganism only, but a realistic balance of activities that satisfy both our minds and bodies.

Mental wellness has us paying attention to our needs and feelings, and physical wellness has us eating intuitively and exercising regularly, but what about sexual wellness? After all, it does involve both our emotional and physical wellbeing. JamuGlo, a herbal beverage brand founded by Atika Suhaimi and her husband, Mohamed, aims to shift the taboo surrounding this dimension of wellness. 

What is sexual wellness?

“Sex is not just intercourse to begin with – it is related to our overall inner health. It’s the relationship we have with ourselves, how comfortable we are in our own skin, and a direct measurement of how connected we are to our partners.”

Atika has been an avid jamu-drinker her entire life and wanted to share the benefits she’s experienced from the traditional healing aid, but with a modern twist. The 100% organic, gluten-free juices boost sexual health and highlight the brand’s belief that intimacy starts from within.

“Prioritizing our sexual wellness does not mean you have to talk about sex, immediately have sex, or even be sexually active – asexuals aren’t easily driven by sexual desires. It’s all about accepting yourself, and understanding your own sexual wellbeing.”

How can we break the stigma surrounding sexual wellness?

“In Malaysia, the challenge we have been facing is to educate and create awareness regarding sexual wellness, as well as change the way people see it other than the way sex has been portrayed in the media or pornography.”

Our society fears that sex education will encourage sex, but in reality, the lack of sex education has caused a dangerously innacurate and unhealthy understanding of sex and sexuality. This barrier of shame and embarrassment that exists around sexual wellness has harmed relationships, the overall wellbeing of individuals, and their general quality of life. It prevents people from making informed choices for safe and fulfilling sexual experiences and relationships.

“We are on a mission to push and elevate women’s lifestyles by truly educating and empowering them to embrace their own sexual wellness. This gives them the chance to be enlightened, and hopefully connect better with their loved ones, and even with themselves. We’re doing this by bringing back the traditional superfoods of our ancestors, but for the modern woman – we’ve made it lighter and more drinkable!”

What is jamu?

“Jamu is a traditional medicine from Indonesia for overall health. It is predominantly a herbal drink made from natural materials, like roots, herbs, flowers, seeds.”

What are the benefits of your drinks?

Kencur Juice

De-tox

When should it be consumed?

“We highly recommend consuming our juices on a daily basis, with De-tox consumed in the morning before or after breakfast (after breakfast if you suffer from gastric), and the Kencur Juice consumed in the evening.

We must stress that it is important to be consistent in your journey with us. Compared to modern medicine, the effects may take a bit longer to show, but their benefits remain substantially longer in your system.”

Who should avoid consuming it?

“Those who are menstruating, pregnant, or hold current medical conditions or illnesses. If you are on any medication, please consult your doctor before consuming our juices as the chemicals may not mix well with natural herbs.”

How should it be stored?

“As all our juices are naturally made, carefully pasteurised, and contain no artificial preservatives, we highly recommend keeping them chilled. They may be kept under normal fridge temperatures for up to 2 weeks (14 days), or stored frozen in your freezer for a period of 3 months (90 days).

A typical jamugloer would purchase between four to eight bottles at a time, leaving their first 2 bottles of Kencur juice and De-tox in the fridge, and the remainder in the freezer.”

Learn more about Jamuglo and join them on their mission to shift the taboo surrounding intimacy by following them on Instagram!

If you’re interested in purchasing their juices, check out their Valentine’s Day promo below: 

Buy 4 or more bottles, between the 2nd and 9th of February, to get a free bouquet of flowers! Your package will be delivered on Valentine’s Day itself for the perfect dose of self-love and an opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones. Order now.

 

Social media has fashion moving faster than ever! And that’s not a good thing.

You’ve probably seen the term ‘fast fashion’ plastered all over social media, but what is it exactly? Fast fashion can be described as inexpensive, mass produced clothing designed to meet the latest trends.

With Instagram and Pinterest taking over magazines and catalogs as the place to find #outfitinspo, clothing brands are constantly having to keep up with the fast-changing trends churned out by these sites. Have you ever noticed how everything the Kardashians wear is already available to wear just a few days after they press post – at only a fraction of the price?!

These high speeds, and low prices, have caused a huge problem with pollution, waste and human rights abuses. As the issues become more pressing, many consumers, and brands, have become more conscious about their fashion choices – keeping an eye out for sustainable, as well as ethical, alternatives that benefit the planet, people and animals.

One of these brands is Love, Light, Lemons – a local charity initiative with the intention to curate sustainable products while continuously uplifting the lives of communities in need. Founded in 2017 by writer and yoga instructor, Raisa Gabrielli, they’ve offered the public sustainable products, from candles to now activewear, that benefit different charities each year.

Why should you choose their activewear? Well, for starters, its made from 100% organic cotton (GOTS certified) and sewn by refugees under UNHCR. Not to mention, their designs are super cute, just like the animals at their current beneficiary, The Strays of Shah Alam.

The brand aims to raise awareness on the impact of fast fashion, as well as the unfair treatment of refugees in Malaysia by providing a sustainable and ethically made alternative to consumers. Those who purchases these pieces will be supporting the production of 100% organic cotton over modified cotton (which has led to environmental degradation, and even deaths within Indian farming communities), and avoid wearing clothing made with plastic.

When it comes to reducing the negative impact of fast fashion, we all have the power and ability to make responsible choices. Play your part by supporting fair brands who strive to make a positive impact. This can help influence the industry to become more sustainable and ethical!

For the first episode of Wild Ginger Connects, we had model, Alicia Amin, talk to the MP for Muar (and fellow millennial), YB Syed Saddiq, about struggles such as mental health, bullying, brain drain and cancel culture. These are issues that we all face, but how does the youngest Malaysian to take office overcome them?

That’s a question he wishes he would get asked in interviews – how he deals with the stress, but his answer isn’t his cats or exercise. It’s the inspiration he gets from his mother. Awww! The newly-retired teacher raised four (then) troublesome children while being the main bread winner of the family. She’s also been acknowledged as the best teacher in both her school and the state of Johor!

Syed Saddiq on Mental Health

“We have to break that taboo, and for us to do so, there must be that transparent, open national conversation and discourse on mental health. A lot more people must start sharing it – that’s why I truly value when a lot of youth icons start speaking up about it, like Tengku Iman. When that’s shared in public, it gives a sense of familiarity that even people in these particular positions also suffer from it, how they overcome it, and hopefully, will start that conversation among others.”

Syed Saddiq on Bullying

“The last thing which I want is for others to see and then get even more demotivated because of what happens in parliament. For example, if other young people see, ‘If this is how they treat young parliamentarians, then I don’t think there’s a future for me in politics’. I don’t want for them to see that! So, that’s where I think, dealing with it with compassion, speaking up on these issues, getting other members of parliament (even from that particular party) to speak up against these tactics.”

Syed Saddiq on Brain Drain

“Young people have that very passionate and diverse energy – instead of suppressing it, why don’t you address it? Deal with it and try to harness it in a positive way. I think if we do that, we would be able to partially also deal with brain drain – there are obviously many other reasons why, but I think we can at least start by listening to them and taking them seriously instead of, every time they come up with a funky idea, ‘You’re wrong, that’s criminal, goodbye’. That’s wrong.”

Syed Saddiq on Cancel Culture

“If you lock them up with a particular stereotype or because of one mistake, or a few mistakes, then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The person is more likely to commit mistakes over and over again because you don’t guide them to the right path. It’s about really showing compassion, and genuine care, and empathy to bring the person out of that hole.”

Watch the full interview below:

 

 

 

Did you know that in Malaysia stalking isn’t a crime? There are some existing laws related to stalking – however, these laws do not adequately address stalking and provide no legal provision for stalking survivors to get restraining orders.

More than a third of Malaysians (39% of women and 32% of men) have experienced an act associated with stalking, which caused them to be fearful. These statistics come from a new survey conducted by research company, Vase.ai, and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

The survey results support calls to make stalking a crime, and afford protection to survivors. Respondents shared that they’ve experienced stalking more than once, or continuously, by the same person – one in eight respondents (8% of women and 16% of men) experienced stalking involving threats of harm, and one in six respondents (12% of women and 21% of men) experienced stalking which led to actual harm.

Prevalence of stalking

The results of the survey “Understanding Malaysians’ Experiences of Stalking,” revealed that 88% of Malaysians have experienced an act associated with stalking – 60% of Malaysians have experienced these acts on more than one occasion or continuously.

These acts include:

Impact of stalking

Stalking doesn’t only cause fear and physical harm, it also negatively affects economic, social, educational, and household activities. Almost half of Malaysians who experienced acts associated with stalking suffered a negative impact on their daily lives – they were unable to focus in their employment place, could not feel safe being alone in public, and did not feel safe to attend university or a skills training course.

Reporting of stalking

More than half of the respondents, who experienced an act of stalking, did not report it to the police – nearly half of them did not do so because they didn’t believe the police could or would help. Almost half of those who did make a police report were not satisfied with the action taken by the police. Making stalking a crime would enable the authorities to respond to reports better, and ensure those being stalked are protected.

Need for anti-stalking law

In addition to an anti-stalking law defining and criminalising acts of stalking, and affording protections to survivors, such a law would also help society understand stalking better and spread awareness – both on the part of survivors of stalking, as well as on the part of perpetrators who are engaging in acts of stalking.

Although the survey results found that 69% of Malaysians believe that stalking is wrong, the high prevalence and low reporting rates of stalking suggest that there may be a gap in the law. Although stalking is a fairly common occurrence, it has been going unreported and unpunished. WAO urges the Minister of Law, Dato’ Takiyuddin Hassan, to lead the government in making stalking a crime without delay. You can sign WAO’s petition to #MakeStalkingACrime.

The complete survey results can be found here, and WAO’s report on the survey results is available here.

 

Last Friday, singer, FKA twigs, filed a lawsuit against actor, Shia LaBeouf, citing sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress during their year-long relationship. In an interview with the New York Times, she explained that sharing her story shows that abuse can happen to anyone – regardless of their status, money or support system. The lawsuit states that she plans on donating most of any monetary damages to domestic-violence charities, but that didn’t stop her from being accused of doing it out of desperation for money. Her abuser also admitted to his alcoholism and aggression, but the musician is still being met with misogynist comments that make fun of her appearance and question her agenda. This is one of the main reasons victims don’t report their abuse.

“my second worst nightmare is being forced to share with the world that i am a survivor of domestic violence
my first worst nightmare is not telling anyone and knowing that i could have helped even just one person by sharing my story”

— FKA twigs (@FKAtwigs) December 11, 2020

Victims are afraid to come forward because they are more likely to be blamed instead of the perpetrator. Already struggling with feelings of guilt and shame for the assault, they are unable to further cope with the false assumption that they provoked their abuser. We’ve all heard, “She asked for it”, “Why did she wear that”, “She was drunk”, “Why did she talk to him”. Locally, we’re seeing this with celebrity preacher, Dai’ Syed, who has been charged for sexual assault, including rape, against multiple women. Men, and even women, have jumped to his defence – accusing the women for his acts of violence. It is never the victim’s fault.

None of these reasons are justified – sexual assault isn’t caused by what someone wears or how they act, it is caused by the perpetrator. They choose to harm to their victims and make survivors feel humiliated, uncomfortable and threatened. This is why it is so important for us to make survivors feel seen, heard and supported. If you witness victim blaming, call it out and encourage practicing empathy and holding space instead. We must put an end to this attitude and finally hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment or abuse, you can contact the Women’s Aid Organisation Hotline at 03 7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 .

Learn more about ending gender-based violence here.

 

 

 

 

What are Human Rights?

So what exactly are ​Human Rights​?
It is the ​rights​ you have simply because you are ​human​.

 

What is Human Rights Day?

Human Rights Day is celebrated universally on the 10th of December every year to advocate the rights and freedoms of people across the globe. In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (UDHR) which contains 30 articles that touch on freedom, peace, justice, education, healthcare, and dignity, amongst other rights. Human Rights Day was officially established on the 4th of December, 1950 at the meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

The UDHR basically states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights”.

For the past 70 years, it has been celebrated worldwide to improve the social, cultural, physical, and spiritual well-being and welfare of all vulnerable groups of people.

 

What is the theme of Human Rights Day 2020?

“Recover Better – Stand Up For Human Rights.”

This year, the theme for Human Rights Day correlates with the COVID-19 pandemic that has left many countries struggling.

The UN Human Rights’ call to action “S​tand Up for Human Rights”, ​is intended for everybody to support transformative action and display practical and inspirational examples that will contribute to recovering better, and cultivating more resilient as well as just societies.

There is a dire need to build back better by making certain that ​Human Rights ​are the main priority of recovery efforts throughout the world.

 

What are the goals?

The COVID-19 crisis is further aggravated by structural discrimination and racism. The requirements for a post-COVID world would be equality and non-discrimination for all.

The pandemic has shone a bright light on the high and rising inequalities, be it economically, socially, and/or culturally everywhere in the world. A new social contract is needed to birth a new era.

Everyone plays a vital role in building a post-COVID world that’s recovered and better for the present and future generations. It is vital that the voices and pleads of the most vulnerable and affected be heard during the recovery efforts. We are all in this together.

Sustainable development is essential for all people and the planet. ​Human Rights​, the ​2030 Agenda, and the ​Paris Agreement are some of the many foundations of a recovery that includes everybody on this planet. Learn more about this by reading about ​The Sustainable Development Goals which addresses global challenges that we face today.

 

United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, ​Michelle Bachelet says​, “This is a call to action to seize this opportunity and build the world we want.”

Every person seeks equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal dignity without discrimination. Human rights are the choices that we make every day as human beings. It is the responsibility we all share to respect, to help one another, and protect that in-need.

Those who fight against torture, discrimination, poverty, and injustice are not people with superpowers or any special abilities; they’re normal people like you and me. Free-thinking individuals who refuse to be silent.

So, the question now becomes, ​will ​you stand up for human rights and join in the fight too?

 

Child Psychologist, Ashwini Balagopal (MBPsS), educates us on the topic.

FX’s A Teacher is not a love story. TV’s dangerously romanticised teacher-student trope has finally been shown for what it is – a manipulative, destructive affair. The show provides a lesson in predatory grooming behaviour with Claire, a teacher, and the inappropriate relationship she develops with an 18-year-old student, Eric. It lays out a disturbing view of grooming and its consequences by covering their fallout and the aftermath 10 years later.

But many have argued – isn’t an almost-18-year old boy above the age of consent? Doesn’t that make his relationship with a 30-something-year-old woman legal? Ashwini Balagopal, also known as @ab.childpsychologist, explains what grooming is and how damaging the power dynamic can be:

What is grooming?

Grooming is a process whereby the sexual perpetrator or perpetrator will gain the trust of a child or an adult, or form an emotional connection with the intended victim or their family for the purpose of starting a sexual relationship with them. For children, it happens without the knowledge of their parents or caregivers. Although grooming is commonly associated with child sexual abuse, it also happens to adults, be it they are 18, 21, 30 or 50 – especially those who are vulnerable (for example, someone who has had a history of abuse or has low self-esteem). The perpetrator’s intention is to sexually exploit their victim.

How do perpetrators groom their victims?

These are some of the common signs or stages of grooming, but keep in mind that every victim has different experiences:

Firstly, the perpetrator will identify their victim – they will choose their victim based on their age, gender, how they look and even their vulnerability. For example, if they are a paedophile, his or her target group will be children. A perpetrator can also target adult women who are vulnerable as they believe this “target group” will easily fall into their trap.

The perpetrator will gain the victim’s trust (or their parents’) and find ways to access the victim. They are very sneaky and manipulative – they will not be “in your face” or overwhelm you at first. Instead, the victim may suddenly “bump” into the perpetrator or find themselves in a situation whereby the perpetrator is there to lend a helping hand, such as suggesting to tutor the child or pay an adult’s bills. While getting to know their victim, they will also assess how accessible the victim is and whether the victim has strong protective factors surrounding them.

The perpetrator will attempt to become an important figure in a child’s or adult’s life by giving them gifts or filling a need – this is where they become even more manipulative. They will use terms like they are the only ones who can understand the victim or care about them.  Victims start to become so emotionally dependent on their perpetrator – they feel as if they can’t live without them.

The perpetrator will also try their best to isolate the victim from their friends and family. For example, they will offer to walk them home or accompany them to various places – ensuring that they are always spending time together. Perpetrators become very present in the victim’s life.

The perpetrator will also begin to sexualise interactions with the victim, perhaps by caressing the victim’s back or hugging them. At first, the victim may not consider these gestures as sexualised, but the perpetrator will look at it that way. If a child is the victim, they will use the child’s curiosity about their body to further the sexual relationship. They can start asking the victim for pictures or even to touch themselves. By this point, the child will think it is “normal” because of the bond that has been formed and how the relationship has progressed. Keep in mind that grooming can take place over days, weeks or months.  However, when the victim realises that this is wrong, it becomes difficult for them to leave the toxic abusive relationship.

If the victim wants to end the relationship or wishes to disclose, the perpetrator will begin to threaten them. For example, they will threaten to harm the child’s parents should the child disclose. The perpetrator can also make victims feel guilty by saying that they wish to harm themselves or someone the victim cares about should the victim decide to end the relationship or reveal details about the relationship to someone else. They will do anything to keep the victim by their side. As time passes, the perpetrator will become more controlling and by now, the victim feels as if they have no choice but to adhere to their demands as they believe that they have no way out.

What does it do to the victims?

Victims need to know that they have been manipulated and abused – it is never their fault.

Why do perpetrators abuse?

Grooming is a form of sexual abuse. It can be difficult to comprehend how “ordinary people” can end up abusing others; what more children. However, here are some possible reasons why grooming happens:

How can we prevent grooming from happening?

In order for others to be more cautious about who they spend time with, we must talk about grooming and spread awareness on the matter. The more we talk about it, the less likely it is to happen. If you are in a situation as mentioned above, or know someone else in that situation, please speak up and report it to the authorities.

Ashwini Balagopal holds an MSc Child & Adolescent Mental Health degree from University College London and is a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). Follow her on Instagram to find out more about her therapy services, as well as learn more about mental health and abuse.

Now, more than ever, there are more women participating in politics worldwide. After decades of fighting for inclusion and opportunities, the Internet has allowed women to get involved and openly express their views in the public domain.

But this seemingly liberating tool brought another form of violence against women – online harassment. As women’s political participation began to grow, so did the frequency and intensity of violent responses towards their presence. This is one of the reasons why women still remain overwhelmingly underrepresented in politics worldwide.

With their political opinions constantly being met with sexism and hatred on social media, it creates a barrier for women to participate safely, fully and equally. These acts of violence are aimed to exclude women, by using fear and intimidation to discourage their participation.

We spoke to Aliya Ashiqin, the co-founder of StandUp Malaysia, as well as the publicity secretary for DAP Socialist Youth – DAPSY Damansara, to hear about her experience, as well as how we can overcome the online harassment of women in politics.

What pushed you to start StandUp Malaysia?

I always felt that women and girls in Malaysia were not safe, whether online or offline, from catcalling on the street to physical violence, slut-shaming and sextortion (revenge porn/leaked nudes) by an ex-intimate partner. 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced violence in their lifetime – statistics have proved that women are more likely to encounter sexual harassment/abuse compared to men. Recognizing this issue, my co-founder and I decided to start a non-governmental organization (NGO) named StandUp Malaysia. We founded StandUp Malaysia to fight against any forms of violence targeted towards women.

What has your experience been like as a woman in both activism and politics?

Definitely a rollercoaster ride! Besides my involvement in StandUp Malaysia, I do actively participate in politics. Considering my contribution as a Publicity Secretary for DAPSY Damansara, I engage and execute various activities such as creating content, organising political forums for youths, distributing flags on Merdeka Eve, visiting Orang Asal villages, and many other things. Suffice to say, it is quite fun actually, and the best part is that our organising committee recognises gender equality by having a female, YB Lim Yi Wei, as our Chief. (Yay!) However, I found things a tad challenging when everything moved to a digital platform. This is because people are sitting behind the screen, spending 12 to 24 hours on a keyboard, and they start commenting nasty things to you – which they wouldn’t dare to say in front of you. Like I mentioned earlier, women are most vulnerable in an online space. I have experienced a situation where my first “Come Join My Political Party” poster was shared by many on Twitter, and later on Facebook. The misogynists started commenting in a very disparaging manner. They called me things like, Trigger Warning: “DAP whore, untuk jadi barua pelacur??, gundik??” and commenting in lewd tones such as, “standard ni kat petaling street pun banyak, masuk spa etc”. After going through that experience, I feel as though our society is still not ready to have the First Woman Prime Minister of Malaysia. It’s kinda frustrating for women in politics to go through this all the time.

In Malaysia, why do you think that a low number of women participate in politics?

Tracing back the history, I found that there were several women groups – Kaum Ibu UMNO, AWAS, who mobilised and participated in political movements – fighting for national independence. In fact, in 1960, we had the first woman representative in legislature by the name of Ganga Nayar. Over the years, we can see the number of women in politics, and running for office, increasing. However, it still remains low – women’s representation in Parliament is less than 20%. I think the low number of women who participate in politics is mainly because of external factors. Some women perceive politics as “dirty politics” because there is a lot of dirty business going on – corruption activities, political blackmailing scandals. And most importantly, gender inequality and systemic challenges. One pressing issue is gender inequality. Gender inequality exists in families, workplaces, political parties and other situations. Women often being assigned to subordinate roles in rank (gender roles) further hampers them and limits their opportunity to run for office. We have recently seen political forums that put all men as panelists for women topics, which I think is irrelevant. Also, I think women don’t run for office because it is their personal choice. They feel being in politics subjects them to public scrutiny – people check your background, family and others. But women are participating in politics. They vote during the election, participate in online discussions, sign petitions and protest on the streets.

How can we encourage more women to participate – why is it so important?

It is so important to participate in politics because politics deals with our life. The government formulates policies that affect us and we can’t ever run away from that. To narrow down the discussion, we have to determine women to participate in politics or to run for office. We need more women to run for office for our voices to be heard. There are women issues that need women representatives to decide and debate on – men cannot make decisions on behalf of women. Therefore, equal representation of gender in Parliament is crucial. One of the approaches to encourage women to run for office is by providing them with training – public speaking, debating, data analysis and so forth. I feel political parties must set a quota for women to be equally contested in the election. For instance, party A allocates 25 out of 50 seats for women candidates. Women can always partake in discussions about current issues by creating more spaces for them.

What advice do you have for women who are afraid of entering these spaces because of the gender-specific abuse?

Women should live fearlessly.

Why do you think women are targeted in these spaces?

This is because of the patriarchal mindset that has been deeply-rooted in our society for decades.

How do you cope with the bullying and harassment?

I usually ignore, block and report them. But if the degree of harassment and bullying is not tolerable, I call them out on social media.

What measures can be taken to prevent and condemn attacks on women in these spaces?

I think we need to reform and modify some laws to safeguard all genders, including minors. I acknowledge that there are Acts – the Communication and Multimedia Act to protect us, but I think we need to enforce and strengthen it. Secondly, we need to actively advocate a safe space (online and offline) and promote healthier discussions in our community. Finally, I feel we should educate our generation on treating and respecting women, such as implementing gender subjects in schools.

Join Aliya on her mission to bridge the gap between males and females, and to promote gender equality! You can follow StandUp Malaysia on Instagram and connect with her on Twitter.

We’ve asked the Women’s Aid Organisation for their expert advice.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most common human rights violations in the world. The devastating abuse includes intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, as well as child marriage.

Recently, there has been a global rise of violence against women due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures implemented by many countries. In Malaysia, the Women’s Aid Organisation hotline has seen an 83.33% increase in domestic violence enquiries this year.

As severe as it is, violence against women rarely gets reported because of the shame, silence, and stigma surrounding it. This is why The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women takes place every year, on the 25th of November, to help prevent and eliminate violence against women.

From the 25th of November to the 10th of December, there are 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence leading up to Human Rights Day. We’ve teamed up with the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) to raise awareness on responding to violence against women, as well as preventing it.

 

What is considered violence against women?

Violence against women is any act of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence that women experience as a result of their gender.

 

What is the most common form of violence against women?

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women. Globally, nearly one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner.

 

Why does violence against women exist?

In general, individuals who are engaging in violent behaviour know they are doing so, don’t care that they are doing so, or both. However, part of what informs this attitude towards violence is the normalisation of violence against women in our society, such as through the media we consume, advertisements etc., and this sometimes sends the message that violence against women is acceptable.

 

What should a woman do if she is getting abused?

If a woman is being abused, she should seek help either by confiding in a trusted friend or family member or calling a crisis support hotline like WAO’s Hotline or Talian Kasih. If she is in immediate danger, she should seek help from the police.

 

What should a woman do if she’s afraid that seeking help would put her in more danger?

If a woman feels that seeking help would put her in more danger, then the best option is to try to de-escalate the situation, if possible, such as by moving into another room of the house or otherwise away from the perpetrator. However, once the immediate danger is gone, it is important for the woman to seek help and make a safety plan for herself and her children in the event the danger escalates one again.

 

Who should a woman contact – the police or support services?

The police and services like WAO’s or the Talian Kasih hotline are both important points of contact for women, as are hospitals. Regardless of where a woman goes first for help, she should be able to be referred to the other services she needs, whether that is shelter, medical attention, or to file a police report.

 

What should a woman do if she encounters difficulty filing a police report?

If a woman encounters difficulty filing a police report, she can remind the police of her rights under the Domestic Violence Act, which makes domestic violence a crime and allows individuals to receive protection from it. They can also contact WAO for assistance.

 

What should one do if they know someone who is being abused?

If an individual knows someone who is being abused, they should be an active rather than passive bystander, while at the same time recognising the woman’s own agency. The best approach in a situation like this is to try to reach out to the woman in a way that is discreet and won’t put her in danger, such as leaving her a note with a phone number in a place that only she will see it, or letting her know how she can signal for help if she is in danger. If there is no imminent danger, then the individual can offer support to the person by listening or advising them to call WAO’s hotline for information and advice.

 

How can one help someone who is being abused?

Ultimately, every woman has to make her own decisions over her life. However, it is important that women are equipped with all of the necessary information around her rights and the resources that are available to her in order to make informed decisions. By simply letting someone know that you are there if they need you, or by providing them with the contact information for other resources, this helps equip them with the necessary information while also respecting their space to make decisions for themself.

 

In Malaysia, is there enough awareness about the help available?

Although there is a good level of awareness in Malaysia about WAO’s hotline and shelter, and other available hotline and shelter services, there is always a need for more awareness. Particularly in rural and more remote areas, more outreach must be done to ensure that survivors of violence know that help is available to them if they need it, and to ensure that women are aware of their right to live free from violence.

 

What can we do to create a safer community for women?

Learning to be an active rather than passive bystander, and becoming knowledgeable on the issue of violence against women is a great place to start. This means learning to recognise violence, understanding how to reach out to survivors who may be in need and may be dealing with trauma, and knowing where to refer survivors who need shelter, counseling, or other assistance. If communities played a more active role in detecting and responding to violence against women–and in sending a clear message that violence against women is never acceptable–this could also contribute to prevention and eventually to a decrease in incidence of violence against women.

 

What can we do to support shelters and counselling services?

NGOs like WAO’s run on donations and public support, so that is one way to directly support WAO’s shelter and counseling services provided. Individuals can also volunteer their time to support WAO’s operations and community outreach work to help spread awareness and ensure that women in need are aware of the help available.

 

Women’s Aid Organisation 

Since 1982, Women’s Aid Organisation has provided free shelter, counselling, and crisis support to women and children who experience abuse. We help women and their children rebuild their lives, after surviving domestic violence, rape, trafficking, and other atrocities. Learning from women’s experiences, we advocate to improve public policies and shift public mindsets. Together, we change lives.

Call the WAO Hotline at 03 7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. For more information, visit wao.org.my.

 

 

‘Toxic masculinity’ doesn’t mean that masculinity is toxic. Not all men are bad or evil, but the cultural ideals that are associated with being a man are extremely harmful. The concept of ‘manliness’ has had a negative effect on both women and men, with ‘manhood’ being expressed through misogyny, homophobia, violence and substance abuse. These destructive messages provide men with the dangerous idea that they have the right to participate in such negative behaviours.

In most cultures, men police each other’s masculinity, labelling only specific actions as ‘acceptable’. These traditional cultural norms include being:

Conformity to these traditional male gender roles is harmful to society as a whole. Women fall victim to violence, sexual assault, psychological abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and discrimination because of it. Men who don’t adhere to it also experience violence, psychological trauma and discrimination, but it harms those who do too – the pressure to look ‘strong’ and suppress one’s emotions to fit the ideal form can cause aggression, addiction, as well as suicide. Those who aim to be an ‘alpha male’ are a danger to themselves and others.

As a society, we must come together to combat toxic masculinity. The first step is to remove the detrimental norms from masculinity by redefining what it means to ‘be a man’ and developing healthier expectations. Allow boys and men to feel their feelings, and teach them how to express their emotions instead of resorting to violence. Violence-prevention is key, and by providing them with the tools to handle conflict nonviolently, we can create a safer society.

Learn more about men’s mental health here.