Facebook has removed a group originating from Malaysia after investigations found members sharing dozens of photos sexualizing pregnant women, many uncensored, and hundreds of sexually explicit comments.
The group, whose name in Malay “Koleksi Mak Buyung Malaysia'' translates to “My Collection of Pregnant Women,” attracted at least 5,000 members before it was removed on Monday evening for “violating site policies”.
The group was managed by six admins, who used fake profile pictures, with posts dating back to June. A large majority of members were local men, many openly sharing pictures taken of unsuspecting pregnant Muslim women dressed in hijabs, in public places like shopping malls, supermarkets and outdoor spaces.
Sexually explicit comments that accompanied the posts proved to be just as disturbing. “If only I could stroke and caress that belly,” wrote one male user in response to a photo of a pregnant woman in a mall. Other remarks seen by VICE World News showed men encouraging other men to “molest” pregnant women in public.
“Men have sexual desires and if your picture makes it to this group and becomes a part of the collection, you shouldn’t wonder why.”
A member of the group, seen wearing a sports jersey and posing with three young children in his profile picture, suggested that he would use the photos as “material” to masturbate to.
One particularly disturbing post came from a middle aged man, whose profile picture showed him wearing religious clothes at an event with a female partner. He talked at length about Muslim women in Malaysia who choose to wear “tight clothes” during pregnancy.
“It isn’t right if you’re pregnant and choose to still wear tight-fitting clothes that show off your baby bump,” he wrote in Malay. “Men have sexual desires and if your picture makes it to this group and becomes a part of the collection, you shouldn’t wonder why.”
He then proceeded to talk about “male urges” and compared lustful local men to hungry stray cats looking for food. “If you don’t want your food to be disturbed by cats, you should protect it [accordingly].”
VICE World News reached out to Facebook on Monday morning to notify representatives in Kuala Lumpur about the group’s existence on the site. A spokeswoman responded and said that security investigations were taking place. Checks made later in the day found that the group had been taken down, and all links to pictures and posts were dead. “We have removed the group for violating our policies,” the spokeswoman said.
“We know that women experience a disproportionate level of abuse and harassment online, and we take seriously our responsibility to help keep them safe.”
In a phone call with VICE World News, Karen Lai, programme director for the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) on the island of Penang, applauded the group’s closure, but said Malaysian authorities now needed to take over.
“A crime has occurred. Pictures were clearly taken without consent, resulting in deeply offensive content being shared openly online by perpetrators who now have to be brought to justice under our multimedia and communications act,” she said.
“Enforcement of the law needs to be done and preventive measures taken to stop this from happening again.”
“A crime has occurred. Pictures were clearly taken without consent and openly online by perpetrators.”
The disturbing Facebook group came to light after famed Malaysian teenage activist Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, who made international headlines in May for calling out on TikTok a male teacher in her school who made inappropriate jokes about rape, shared screenshots of the lewd conversations that were taking place between male members in the group.
“This is unbelievable and repulsive,” Ain wrote in a tweet. “These people were fetishizing pregnant mothers.”
The 17-year-old also revealed that many girls and women sent her screenshots from the group. “It’s repulsive to see… motherhood turned into this,” she said.
The Facebook group is part of a trend of cyber injustices against Malaysian women. Derogatory and sexist comments are often made by male trolls on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Religious male politicians also often air misogynistic and offensive views about issues like rape and child marriage, and many men often engage in online trolling against women.
Women’s rights groups and activists in the country have also spoken out recently about issues facing women in the country—ranging from outrageous “menstruation spot checks” that were still allowed to take place in schools, to “sexist” controversial citizenship laws that denied Malaysian women the right to confer nationality on their children, as well as a local TV actor who came under fire for excitedly speaking about an on set rape scene.
Several female commenters from Malaysia approached VICE World News on Twitter and sent links and screenshots, condemning the group’s presence and calling for it to be shut down and its members banned from the site.
Lawyer Azira Aziz was one of many Malaysian women who stepped forward to report the group. She told VICE World News that there was often “no effort” to reinforce respect towards women in Malaysia.
“It’s bad enough that Malaysian women deal with sexism and general microaggressions everyday. Even pregnancy is not sacred,” she told VICE World News. “Our society’s mindset is not about having accountability and [practising] civic-mindedness to others. So adult men, under the disguise of anonymous [troll] accounts, making sexually explicit comments towards pregnant women is upsetting but not surprising.”
Lai strongly condemned the group’s existence and said it was a “symptom of a deeper problem” that was going on in the country. “There is a toxic undercurrent of victim blaming, misogyny, toxic masculinity and predatory behavior—all of which are protected by sheer impunity,” Lai said.
“The sense of entitlement that these men have over women’s bodies is deeply problematic and when left unchecked, is dangerous.”
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