Tashny Sukumaran was quoted by Benar news

by Hadi Azmi and Nisha David, 5 August 2021

Malaysian police have summoned a teenage girl who made international headlines in April for complaining on TikTok about a teacher who allegedly made a rape joke in class, after the teacher filed a police report against the student, her father said on Thursday.

The teacher is also suing Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, 17, for defamation, and demanding 1 million ringgit (U.S. $237,000) in compensation, her father said. Although Ain had never publicly named the teacher, she had filed a police report about him.

The prosecutor in charge of the teacher’s case had concluded it required no further action, Shafa’aton Abu Bakar, the police chief of Sungai Buloh district in Selangor, told BenarNews earlier on Thursday but declined to give information on what was in the police report lodged against the teenager.

“There’s a report lodged against me and Ain by the Physical Education teacher. We will go there tomorrow at 5 p.m.,” Saiful Nizam told BenarNews.

Ain and her father, Saiful Nizam Ab Wahab, will be accompanied by their lawyer, and Members of Parliament Maria Chin and Teresa Kok, who are supporting the family in the case.

“Pray that all matters are eased,” Saiful Nizam said.

He said he could not comment on details of the report filed against them on the matter because police had not informed them about it.

Officials at the Ministry of Education and the headmistress of the school, where the rape joke was allegedly made, did not immediately return calls from BenarNews.

Tashny Sukumaran, a gender equality expert and analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia, said that when a prosecutor says “no further action” on a case, it is not a sign that an offense did not take place.

“I myself have filed a sexual harassment report previously and it too was declared as NFA due to insufficient evidence. Therefore, it should not be taken as a declaration of innocence,” Tashny told BenarNews.

Parliamentarian Chin said police action was not the way to deal with the issue. Instead, the matter should be resolved by the Ministry of Education and the school, who should take action against the teacher, she said.

“The school and the ministry have to be taken to task – Stop harassing Ain and her family, the whole family is suffering from this,” Chin told BenarNews.

“You cannot have a teacher saying things like that in school. What kind of message are we giving the children?”

BenarNews video interview with Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam [April 2021]

‘Will not submit to their demands’

Meanwhile, Ain and her father said that they had received a “notice of claim” from the teacher’s lawyer on Wednesday demanding a response within a week.

“They named Ain, me and wife as respondents,” Saiful Nizam said. “I am still discussing with my lawyer. For sure, we will not submit to their demands and we will proceed with court action after seven days.”

On April 24, Ain, who is a senior in high school, became a household name after she posted a video on TikTok alleging that a teacher made sexually charged jokes in a physical education class.

In the TikTok video Ain quoted her teacher as saying: “If you want to rape someone, do not rape those below 18 years old, rape those above 18 years old.”

The teacher, a man, made the comment as a class on health education was discussing laws protecting minors from sexual harassment, Ain alleged.

Ain’s video went viral, igniting a nationwide debate on sex education and institutional misogyny, with many girls raising their voices over similar incidents. But many people criticized her, too.

Many told Ain they feared being shut out by their schoolmates if they complained, she said. Some said they did report sexist incidents but no action was taken, Ain said.

Then Ain, too, began to be ostracized by her schoolmates after she filed a police report about her teacher.

Her parents decided to move her to a new school.

The teacher was reassigned to a state education department while his case was being investigated, local media had reported, but where he is currently is not known.

Gender equality expert Tashny called the teacher’s civil and criminal legal action against Ain a form of intimidation against sexual harassment whistleblowers.

“Criminal defamation as a response to sexual harassment complaints should not be permitted given the lacunae of laws protecting sexual harassment complaints. We need provisions in law to protect complainants,” she said.

“If not, it will always be a situation where a survivor’s report is declared as ‘no further action’ by prosecutors and the perpetrator is able to unfairly retaliate.”

This article first appeared in Benar news, 5 August 2021.


- Advertisement -