Yet again, Ms Ain Husniza and her father, Mr Saiful Nizam, are at the forefront of the rape joke issue. This time, Ms Ain’s teacher, who allegedly made the joke to Ms Ain, had named her and her father defendants in a suit for defamation, claiming RM1 million in damages. Ms Ain and her father responded by filing a countersuit of RM5 million, citing emotional distress.
The report of the suit and countersuit on various news agencies has become a talking point on social media. Unfortunately, based on observations on Facebook comments, many netizens are blaming, Ms Ain, publicly chastising her for her actions of exposing her teacher. Many are unapologetic and apathetic. They claim the motives in exposing her teacher as merely a tool to gain followers in an attention-seeking manner.
The response of the majority of the public is infuriating and unwarranted. The misogyny on display proves that matters such as this would still be an issue many years to come. In bringing the matter to the public, instead of getting support, the complainant is treated as a stigma and may well lead to more instances being left unreported.
By sweeping the matters under the rug, the authorities act is not conducive and may or facilitate more instances to happen. Women, especially children, would live in fear, and more would suffer in silence, which will not be in the great interest of the child.
In the working world, any jokes that have sexual connotations may well be a legitimate complaint against the maker for an investigation of sexual harassment and may be made to undergo a disciplinary tribunal. If found guilty, the maker of such jokes may be disciplined and may be dismissed. The difference between what had happened between Ms Ain’s situation and any sexual harassment complaint is made worse when you put the teacher-student relationship in the equation. Teachers and students have a fiduciary relationship and may be in the position of influence on their students. As such, their fiduciary duty requires them to exercise their rights and powers in good faith and for the benefit of the student.
As such, the criticism and response to Ms Ain should stop because she is a courageous person for bringing this matter up and because she is, by legal definition, a child. She should receive the support, empathy, and care of society.
Advocacy, Legal Services and Research (ALSR) UNIT
SIS Forum (Malaysia)
13 December 2021