[By Gloria Ngu]
A Singaporean friend once asked me, ‘How is the safety in Malaysia like?’
Being the smart-aleck that I am, I replied, ‘Safety? What safety?’
It was funny, and we did laugh about it for some time, but behind the joke was a fact. The truth is I don’t feel safe, whether I am at the mall, on campus or at work. There seems to be at least one case of sexual violence reported in the newspapers every day, and sometimes the pessimistic side of me does wonder, When will I be next?
The FBI defines rape as ‘penetration…without the consent of the victim’. The Heat Online writes, ‘Rape, a dastardly crime, has long been used as a weapon to silence women from standing up or to punish them for having the courage to take a stand’, citing the examples of Datuk Ambiga and Aisyah Tajuddin. To rape is to forcefully exert one’s will over another person’s physically, mentally and emotionally. It is an act of domination, not the result of an uncontrollable desire.
In 2011, statistics released by Bukit Aman stated that 10 women become the victims of rape every day. Free Malaysia Today (FMT) also reported that more than 3000 rape cases are reported each year. However, it is speculated that for every rape case reported, nine go unreported, which means that there could possibly be 30,000 rape cases happening each year, just in Malaysia. Considering our population of 29.72 million, the rate of sexual assault in our country is very high.
The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. You might have noticed people around you wearing red lipstick, drawing red lips on their hands or nails and doing things that are out of the norm. Wonder what they are doing?
Red My Lips is an organization that runs an annual global awareness campaign where participants put on red lipstick for the whole month of April. By donning this striking color on their lips, participants demonstrate solidarity and support for the survivors, attempting to spark conversation with other people about this ever-elusive, often considered taboo topic. By raising awareness about the reality and prevalence of rape, this organization also works to combat rape myths and victim-blaming, and for them, red lipstick is the starting point for conversations on this topic.
The great thing about this campaign is that anyone anywhere can take part. All you have to do is slap on some red lipstick (or do any of the other things listed on their Facebook event page, check your understanding on rape and you’re good to go.
Someone asked, ‘Why red lipstick in particular?’
Red lipstick was chosen because of the most widely believed myth about sexual assault – that the victims were attacked due to how they looked, what they were wearing and how much makeup they had on.
So, because rape is commonly but incorrectly linked to sexuality and attraction, the suitable weapon to combat these myths is red lipstick, an ostentatious stand in defiance of the comment “She asked for it”. Rape is often made into an invisible issue, as the stigma and shame associated with these crimes leave many victims suffering and helpless. Red lipstick is highly accessible, visible and encourages wearers to be seen and heard. The emphasis here is placed not on the red lipstick itself, but the supporters talking to people about the campaign and the issues at hand, drawing attention and sparking discussion about sexual assault.
Of course, other than just wearing red lipstick to raise awareness about rape, there are other things that we can actively carry out to reduce the rate of this crime as listed in the photo below.
To know more about Red My Lips, check out their website at www.redmylips.org .
To read up on some of the common rape myths, click here.