Malaysia to revise school textbook telling girls to cover up

The book, aimed at nine-year-olds, includes a chapter in which a girl’s parents are shown telling her to dress modestly or she would be ostracized by her friends and bring shame to her family.
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Malaysia has said it will revise a national school textbook after a section suggesting girls should cover up to avoid sexual assault sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters.

The book, aimed at nine-year-olds, includes a chapter called “protecting one’s dignity” in which a girl’s parents are shown telling her to dress modestly or she would be ostracized by her friends and bring shame to her family.

The image went viral on social media, causing anger among campaigners and parents who said it perpetuated the idea that sexual violence could be blamed on how a woman dresses.

The education ministry said in a statement late Tuesday it would cover up the controversial page with stickers “because the infographic can be construed as blaming sexual assault victims”.

“We welcome the ministry’s decision,” Mastura Rashid, a spokeswoman from women right’s group Empower, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday.

She said the image “reinforces the stereotype that it is the girl’s fault when it comes to sexual violence”.

Rights group Sisters in Islam said the portrayal of women in the book was “highly inappropriate”.

“Girls should not be taught to accept that being a woman would make you a target and easy prey,” the group said in a statement.

The government said last year that it was planning to introduce a dress code for Muslim women in the workplace, sparking a backlash from activists accusing officials of acting like “fashion police”.

Women in the Muslim-majority country, which has a large population of ethnic and religious minorities, have been barred from government offices in the past for wearing clothes deemed to be indecent, such as skirts or shorts.