A Lot of People Are Confused About Consent, Not Just Old People in the Senate
The conversation on sexual harassment has been brought up for far too long for too many times and yet, nothing imperative has been achieved. And the numbers are getting up exponentially. It’s a silent killer, metaphorically and literally.
So where did we go wrong?
It all started with the basic need for exposure of teaching children and adults about consent in the age appropriate basis sexual education curriculum at schools, institutions and workplace. In 2019, it has been reported that 65% Malaysian men do not understand the definition of consent and assume that body language is enough to indicate consent. Disappointingly, another report by Cent-GPS said that 65% of men did not know that sexual consent must be an explicit “yes”.
In addition, 13% assumed that consent for sex can be identified through “body language”, whether by displaying certain gestures or body movements like making eye contact, touching and kissing, 4% claimed consent is a given when the partner is their wife or girlfriend and does not object or explicitly say “no”, 8.6% interpreted consent to be based on unspecified factors like the mood, vibe, flirting, chemistry, availability of protection and a “general assumption” of non-coercion. And a total of 6% unambiguously disappointed said they did not know what is considered sexual consent.
Why is this alarming?
Without consent, a person can be charge under rape and sexual harassment/ assault. There are many types of sexual harassment classification but the most commons are rape and sexual assault. According to the Malaysian Penal Code:
- “Rape is defined as sexual intercourse with an individual against their will or without their consent.
- Sexual intercourse with an individual is also rape when:
- Their consent is obtained by putting them in fear of death or hurt;
- when they are unable to understand the nature and consequences of what they are consenting to;
- or when their consent is obtained by using a position of authority, a professional relationship, or other relationship of trust.
- Sexual intercourse with anyone under 16 years of age, with or without their consent, is also rape.”
There are many definition of sexual harassment/assault, click here for further read.
In short, exposing yourself and young people to the opportunity to have an open conversation to discuss their sexuality as well as learn about consent and healthy relationships is important when considering the sheer number of cases of sexual abuse. The reported incidence of rape is incredibly upsetting, but the actual incidence is much more grave if you consider how many cases must go unreported, or how many victims are actually unaware that they have been sexually assaulted.
So, what is consent?
Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. It has to be voluntary, enthusiastic, and clear understanding. Period.
There are many ways to give consent. Consent is best to be verbal, and for those who are in the deaf or/and mute community, consent should be given by using sign language, body language and all involving participants must achieve comprehension. This includes agreeing to different sexual activities which could help you and your partner to respect each other’s boundaries. Consent is not a nicety. It is a basic human right. Anything less is literally criminal. However, these are applicable for adults as for children of age 16 years old or and below, with or without their consent, it is categorised as statutory rape.
How do you play a role? Firstly, stop victim blaming.
Why don't victims of sexual assault come forward? Well, it probably has something to do with the constant shaming and blaming culture surrounding Malaysians.
“In summary, the mentality that ostracises sexual assault survivors is the proposal of a sexual harassment law by Mohd Imran Abd Hamid, a senator from the People's Justice Party. Shown in this video, the senator makes an ignorant and, frankly, disgusting statement that reads "I propose a Sexual Harassment Act to protect men from the actions, words and clothing of women, which can cause men to be seduced to the point they can commit acts such as incest, rape, molestation, (watching) pornography and likewise."
We know—the more you read it the more absurd it gets. It is a horrifying reality, that those who run our country and who represent us are so blatantly uneducated. It truly highlights the need for an adequate education. Worse still, this mentality of victim-blaming and shaming is omnipresent, especially in the workplace and in universities, in which culture and policies are complicit in the ostracisation of victims and in allowing the culture of sexual misconduct to thrive. Hence, it is imperative not to only educate youngsters but also adults on said issue.