Women Leaders up in Arms over “Call-Gate”

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Creepy caller’s lewd remarks unequivocally unacceptable.

Referring to “Call-gate”, the incident where a caller to a radio show publicly and explicitly rebuked her over her dressing, Nurul Izzah said that the issue could no longer go unaddressed.

“When even an MP such as myself is not spared, what more can other women in Malaysia, unheard and unseen, expect on a regular basis?” she penned in a commentary for the Malay Mail.

“For the sake of Malaysian women who have faced similar harassment and to prevent further incidents in the future, this issue cannot go unaddressed.

Miera Zulyana

“Therefore, I would like to clearly and unequivocally state: in no way was that caller’s behaviour acceptable on any level.”

According to Nurul Izzah, this reflected the reality of Malaysia lagging behind in dealing with harassment against women and being permeated by a “culture of patriarchy, sexism, and toxic masculinity” coupled with a lack of strong sexual harassment laws.

“Men have to endeavour to unlearn a culture that objectifies women, to be self-aware of their privileges by virtue of their gender and seek to achieve some balance.

“It is our responsibility as Malaysians to address toxic masculinity and machismo as detrimental to both men and women.

“As much as it may be incumbent on women to dress modestly, it is equally incumbent on men to lower their gaze should they start to feel uncomfortable.”

The Star reported that newly-minted Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah is calling for a Gender Equality Act to be enacted as criticisms mount against the caller identified as ‘Azrul’ on a Facebook Live talk show where Nurul Izzah was the guest.

“We have to begin to name the crime and not call it anything else,” Maria was quoted saying, adding that the comments by the caller were a form of sexual harassment.

Nurul Izzah and the talk show host were taken aback when the caller made comments about her way of dressing, saying that “YB’s tudung is sometimes swept aside, you know, so sometimes we can see the top part (of your clothing). Especially when you wear a kebaya, it’s tight, so the top part is visible.”

When the talk show host tried to end the call, the man added: “We can see your underwear. We can see your breasts.”

Maria said the man’s comment “was done intentionally and deliberately to harass and to make Nurul’s topic of conversation irrelevant. He did not ask one morsel of a question on the related topic.”

She also hit out at talk show host Faizal Ismail for thanking the caller for his “teguran” (advice) as it acknowledges that the caller’s action was acceptable.

“There have been many times where a woman’s dressing is not only commented in a derogatory manner but she is always made to be the offender instead because of her non-conforming dressing or behaviour.

“This form of minimising the worth of women and their contributions is an outrage to what we have achieved since May 9,” Maria was quoted saying

She said Malaysians voted for change and the Government will work towards ending discrimination and patriarchal attitudes.

“It is time for a Gender Equality Act to be put into place so that offenders do not get away with light or serious acts of violation that undermine women’s human rights.”

The Malay Mail reported that Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh called for the organisers of the ‘live’ talk show to be held responsible for what happened.

She said they should apologise over the “embarrassing incident” and should have ensured questions asked were relevant to Nurul Izzah’s work.

“Sometimes, the organiser has to take the blame. We do a lot of these engagements with politicians and others while putting them on the spot, then when we lose control, we embarrass our guests,” she told the Malay Mail.

Muhammad Sulaiman

“Some sort of filter should be put in place beforehand. The comment was absolutely disgusting and nobody has the right to comment on someone’s attire.”

“The organiser should apologise to Izzah; whether or not it was in their control, it still happened on their show,” Yeoh was quoted saying.

After the public outcry over the caller’s lewd remarks, Faizal now says that he could not hear clearly what the caller had said about Nurul Izzah.

“I couldn’t hear clearly the details of what the caller said and could not give an accurate and appropriate response,” he said on his Twitter account.

“And when I heard the playback, I realised [what had been said] and we apologised to her immediately.

“What was done by the caller was uncalled for,” he added.