Sexual Harassment: Why So Serious?
Recently, social media went into a heated debate over a series of posters the police had placed to deter sexual crimes. The poster showcases price tags that were attached to the perpetrator’s wrists, indicating the punishment for each crime.
Social media had become the battleground for the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and the police to defend their positions. AWARE criticized the poster by arguing that it treats women’s bodies as commodities. Putting a price tag on sexual harassment was said to neglect the victim’s feelings by only emphasizing the punishment. Moreover, they added that survivors felt uncomfortable with the way sexual harassment was portrayed in these posters.
On the other hand, the police refuted AWARE’s criticism, stating that this was an effective way to remind potential perpetrators of the harm brought to victims. The police felt that it was a pragmatic and effective solution to prevent crime.
Reading the articles chronicling the debate, I first wondered whether this was even a significant issue that had to polarise people online. I mean, it was just a poster, right? But delving deeper into the different arguments posed, I realised how nuanced the topic of sexual harassment was.
While I understand the arguments from both sides, I believe that this poster got caught with the unfortunate problem of unintended messaging. Though it may act as an effective deterrent for crime since it looks into the direct consequences of committing sexual crimes, it also marginalises the pain victims face. As it is a poster placed in public, beyond capturing the attention of a perpetrator it may further traumatise the victims. The utilitarian nature of this poster, thus unknowingly, dehumanizes the crime and removes the emotional impact of sexual crime.
Therefore, with sensitive issues like sexual harassment, it is of utmost importance to consult the affected actors involved to understand its complexity. At the end of the day, sexual harassment needs to stop because it is wrong, not because it will get you 2 years in jail.
To read the above articles we have reacted to, please click on the links below:
Written by Lim Kang Yee and edited by Samihah Niquat Safeel