By Izzat Tham
“I’M ALWAYS SCARED WHEN IT COMES TO WALKING FROM WORK OR GOING TO WORK; I NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR MY BAG – OR FEAR OF SOMEONE LOOKING AT ME, SOMETIMES – IT’S JUST SO EXHAUSTING THAT I JUST DON’T LIKE GOING OUT THERE, ALONE” – SAYS J.N.
Harassment is not a “very head-scratching” thing anymore when it comes to our general knowledge of things. Most of us know what harassment really is, but many of us are still at the point of confusion what to do about it.
According to statistic explanation on Malaysia Labour Law,
There is an ample amount of evidence that shows high percentage of sexual harassment cases occuring in the workplace which goes unreported. At the same time, due to embarrassment, helplessness and fear of being ridiculed or worse still, of losing their jobs, most of the victims of sexual harassment felt disinclined from raising the problem itself and therefore had to suffer in silence. On top of that; due to our nature of Malaysians or Asians in general; we dislike the idea of confrontation, thus, the majority has problem in confronting something or even bringing it up to the “I need help” table for discussion.
In Malaysia the unfortunate victims are presently facing distressing constraints to report sexual harassment because there is no established procedure to guide them how and where to report. At the enterprise level, very few employers have so far provided complaints or grievance procedure for reporting sexual harassment.
LegalDictionary, harassment means the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The purposes may vary, including racial prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to force someone to quit ajob or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, or merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious.
Upon talking about this agenda, I have a co-worker which I share my internship with (for all the readers out there – I’m currently doing my internship as an intern reporter in Sarawak) and she goes by the name J.N. for anonymous purposes.
We’ve known each other and worked together for almost a month now. Most of the time, I would be assigned to go to a “function” or event on a daily basis based on our schedules. She is one of the senior reporters there and both of us share the common traits of not really having our own transportation when we’re assigned to go to cover a function.
Thus, we resort to going to functions either through carpool (if it’s far away from our office), by foot (most of the time via foot because for those that does not have their own transport – gets assigned to a nearby venue), or any other ways.
We’d often chat about many things whilst working or going/back from work – one of it is whereby she told how frightful sometimes it is for her when she has to go out, doing work alone.
“Izzat, do you know sometimes it’s very dangerous for me to walk around as a girl? I have to be on guard almost every second when I walk outside – my bag, myself, uncomfortable feeling and many more which I cannot describe – I’m so happy sometimes when I get assigned with other reporters with me; it makes me feel safe and less prone to worrying about other things,” J.N. said.
Believe it or not, I am guilty as it is when I tell you this; the moment she tells me that, I actually shrugged the idea out of my head. I really did and I am heartbroken at this very moment as I admit that to you. I guess I never imagined myself in their place before because all this while, I’ve been so comfortable just walking around town and without having the possibility of enduring whatever lurks behind a woman’s head when they take a walk or a stroll from another places to places.
Therefore, upon realizing this, it did linger in my head for quite some time and an opportunity has presented itself. I was assigned with J.N. for a function together. Thus, I decided to see the situation myself and try put myself in her shoes for this brief of moment.
Like usual, we’d walk back together after covering the function. The function of course wasn’t far – it was just a foot-worthy mileage. What a coincidence was that, at the current day and moment, it was raining. it served as an open door of opportunity to disguise myself. She had an umbrella and I wore a raincoat to cover from head to my torso – it was a baggy raincoat, so it did serve as a very fine tool or purpose of disguise.
Believe it or not? What I found out was extremely disturbing and I cannot tell you how my heart goes out to all the women out there who has to go through something like this on a daily basis.
Just an hour span of us walking from our proposed venue – less than 10 minutes of our journey; we were honked by strangers, whistled, and stared or leered at from within their vehicles. It’s so intimidating and I can still feel the surge of discomfort although the event took place couple or few days ago.
One of the most highlighted issues has to be of course, the strangeness of it. This time around, it’s so head-on, headlights, shined on where YOU can see the fear on her face. It’s present there almost entirely. Every 2 to 5 minutes, she’d shuffle around her handbag, looking left to right, being in the rain made the situation tense as well; I think this is just a small degree of what actually goes behind the scenes. If I were to imagine an even bolder situation, whereby the inhabitants are not scared to come up to you and do “things” to you – it would’ve have been a case of faint of heart.
The worst part of it all is that, although Sarawak, Borneo is a very quiet and a small place – I cannot imagine for those ladies whom work in bigger cities or dense situation that’s filled with more population.
The fact that it was scary to me is because, when you’re finally confronted and placed within that situation; the situation where reality takes place with your very own assumptions or even greater than that – it just puts everything you thought of and molded them into an entirely different, greater, and frightful sensation or impulse.
J.N. is still battling this sort of situation from a daily basis. Many of days, she’s living in a partly or timely nightmare but so are other women out there – what can you do to help is that try and make awareness about it or better yet, if you’re a male specimen yourself – you can stop, think, reflect and do something about it when you see other strangers at it, as well.
P.S – This doesn’t just stop at one specific ends, this goes both ways. Both men and women face different sorts of harassment too. The least we can do is play our part and be a sensible human being, regardless of what race, gender, religion, sexual preferences, social status, and etc.
Originally posted on https://isaacavenue.wordpress.com/