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MOH Under Fire Over Article Blaming Women For Inviting Sexual Harassment

"There are few factors that lead to sexual harassment. Among of the factors are physical attractiveness and charming personality," read one of the paragraphs.

Cover image via New Straits Times & @AWAMMalaysia (Twitter)

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A Ministry of Health (MOH) article is being heavily criticised on social media for containing fallacious advice on how to avoid getting sexually harassed

The article — which was one of the ministry's medical advice pieces from its official portal, MyHEALTH — sparked anger on Twitter on Monday, 12 April.

Titled 'Emotional Impact On Sexual Harassment Victims', the article was published in 2016 and sought to clarify the meaning, causes, and impact of sexual harassment.

However, the article cited wrong and harmful notions such as physical attractiveness, a charming personality, and sexy clothing as causes of sexual harassment

The advice piece heavily inferred that women are to blame for tempting men into harassing them — a form of victim-blaming that suggests the victim, rather than the perpetrator, bears responsibility for the assault.

"There are few factors that lead to sexual harassment. Among of the factors are physical attractiveness and charming personality," read one of the paragraphs.

"Sexy and attractive body shape are a dream of every single human being, especially women... we often forget that it also invite problems such as sexual harassment."

The next line states that "unsuitable clothing style also causes sexual harassment".

"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... it indirectly leads to sexual harassment as the opposite sexes are tempted to do so."

The article also advised that women should avoid working overtime alone and to bring home unfinished tasks to prevent unwanted acts and attention at the office.

The web page has since been taken down.

However, many were still angered by the flawed mindset that the ministry portrayed.

The chief editor of local health news site CodeBlue called the article a "what-the-f--k piece" that should not be on a health website.

"Please delete the article," she demanded, adding, "Men engage in sexual harassment by abusing their power over women, especially in the workplace. It has nothing to do with the way women dress."

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) All Women's Action Society (AWAM) also condemned the page.

"A government-run website spreading misinformation about survivor-related characteristics as primary causes of sexual harassment, when the only causes are power imbalance and patriarchal norms? This is seriously unacceptable, @KKMPutrajaya!" they said.

Independent broadcast journalist and gender activist Tehmina Kaoosji also called out the ministry, saying that taking down the article alone fixes nothing about the situation.

"@KKMPutrajaya must ensure [there is no] unverified content on official websites, plus take this opportunity to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month all through April," she suggested.

Netizens also had their fair share to say about the matter

"Even my 14-year-old son would never write an essay like this on sexual harrassment," said a Twitter user.

Image via Twitter

Another said, "What the f--k, on a government website? The writing and references are so bad, then putting the fault on women."

"There are victims who wear long baju kurung, or even without 'sexy and attractive body shapes that are the dream of every single human being'. You always convict the house owner, not the thief eh?"

Meanwhile, this netizen suggested some edits for the MOH to consider for the article.

The article can still be accessed through an Internet archive here.

Last year, a survey found that a majority of Malaysian women have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment at the workplace:

A landmark case in 2016 has set a precedent for Malaysians to sue perpetrators of sexual harassment. Learn more about it here: