A multitude of women’s rights groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have rallied behind 17-year-old Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam.
In a joint statement today, they wanted the Education Ministry to disclose their internal inquiry on the investigation against a teacher for allegedly making rape jokes in school.
It said over the years, educators with records of involvement in cases of sexual misconduct were transferred to another school or have their positions changed without having clear disciplinary actions taken against them.
“The Education Ministry should disclose the outcome of the internal inquiry into the incident, as a matter of great public interest.
“And out of respect for the integrity of the teaching profession, we urged the teacher in question to retract his letter of demand to Ain, and issue an apology accordingly,” said the statement, adding that a rape joke was verbal sexual harassment.
“It does not only violate a woman’s dignity but is also normalised as part of the status quo. It is an act of objectifying women and girls as targets of sexualised violence, which we can see through the act of demanding Ain and her father to pay RM1 million in compensation to the teacher.
“It is not the first case, where the law on defamation has been used against women or girls experiencing sexual harassment,” it said, adding defamation suits had been used as weapons by the wrongdoers “to cow victims into submissions”.
As a result, it said victims who are usually in a less powerful position, are vulnerable to re-traumatisation, further harassment, and unnecessary scrutiny.
The statement said such legal threats set dangerous precedents, as it is an utterly reprehensible act against victims speaking up on sexual violations and threatened with defamation suits.
“Ain demonstrated tremendous courage through the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace campaign. The campaign has been instrumental in amplifying the much-needed national conversation about the systemic culture of sexualised violence and abuse of power in our educational institutions.
“We reiterate Ain’s rights to be protected and supported, both as survivors of sexual harassment and as well as a child whose interest, welfare and well-being should be unstintingly safeguarded,” it said.
The statement was signed by 26 activist groups and NGOs including Women Aid’s Organisation (WAO), All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) and Association of Women Lawyers (AWL).
WAO research and advocacy officer Anis Farid said the letter of demand for Ain Husniza and her father to apologise and pay monetary compensation worth RM1 million was a form of “intimidation and warning” to others.
Meanwhile, Ain’s parents have decided to file a RM5 million counter suit for “intentional infliction of emotional stress by insulting her modesty”.
In a reply today to the teacher’s RM1 million letter of demand to the family, they have denied all allegations and said they would rely on the defence of fair comment, qualified privilege, and all other defences available in the Defamation Act 1957.
When contacted, Ain’s father confirmed the counter demand and said his daughter was undergoing much trauma because of this episode.
Saiful Nizam Ab Wahab said he has instructed his lawyer Datuk Sankara Nair to file a civil suit for intentional infliction of emotional stress and will be claiming RM5 million in compensation.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), sometimes called the tort of outrage, is a common law tort that allows individuals to recover for severe emotional distress.
Today, Ain also gave a statement to police in connection with the investigation of an intentional insult case.
Her lawyer said he was told that police were investigating the case under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.
Ain told reporters she did not mean to insult or degrade anyone and only wanted schools to be safe.
“It is our right as students to have safety at schools.
“The police were very professional. My father and I will be cooperative in their investigation. I really want to see the results of the case,” she told reporters.