Outrage as health chiefs blame women’s ‘sexy body shapes’ and ‘provocative clothing’ for rapes in Malaysia

OUTRAGE has erupted after Malaysia’s health ministry published guidance on its official website blaming women’s clothing and “sexy body shapes” for sexual harassment.

The now-deleted article cited women’s “physical attractiveness”, “sexy body shapes” and “charming personalities” as factors that “lead to sexual harassment” from men.

It urged women to “avoid working overtime” if they work alone, as they would be asking to be sexually harassed, while telling them to watch out how they communicate and behave to “avoid being misinterpreted”.

The article was published on the official online platform of Malaysia’s health ministry, which provides daily updates on Covid-19 cases and vaccination.

The article was first published in 2016 but came to public attention this week after outraged Twitter users raised it with opposition politician Hannah Yeoh, a former deputy minister of women, family and community development affairs.

“This is absolutely wrong,” Yeoh said in a post, calling for the article to be removed from the health ministry’s website.

Female activists and journalists also criticised the ministry for its outdated approach.

Writer Boo Su-Lyn tweeted: “Men engage in sexual harassment by abusing their power over women in the workplace. It has nothing to do with the way women dress.”

Malaysia is not alone in its antiquated approach to sexual harassment as last week Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan faced a backlash after telling women to “cover up” to avoid rape.

In a weekend TV appearance, Oxford-educated Khan, 68, advised women to cover up to prevent temptation for men who lacked "willpower".

Hundreds have now signed a statement calling Khan's comments "factually incorrect, insensitive and dangerous".

"Fault rests solely with the rapist and the system that enables the rapist, including a culture fostered by statements such as those made by Khan," the statement said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan – an independent rights watchdog – said it was "appalled" by the comments.

Responding to the public backlash against the article on sexual harassment, the Malaysian health ministry’s director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah told the Malay Mail newspaper on Wednesday that the piece had created “a negative perception” and that it was purely based on the author’s personal opinions.

He added that it has since been deleted and the ministry had taken steps to review previous articles published on its portal, reported Vice.

Following the outrage, social media users found other articles on health ministry’s website that demeaned working women as well as LGBTQ Malaysians.

“Ambitious and career-minded Malaysian women” were “in danger of becoming lesbians” if they worked in female-centric environments, one article read.

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