Health Ministry ‘doing some work’ on website after problematic articles spark uproar

Screenshots of text from against a file photo of a medical professional. Photo: Coconuts
Screenshots of text from against a file photo of a medical professional. Photo: Coconuts

Malaysia’s Health Ministry has made its website inaccessible to the public after articles deemed as homophobic and perpetuating victim-blaming sparked uproar. 

Checks on the this afternoon showed that the ministry was “doing some work” on the site, a day after Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah was questioned by the press about an article on the effects of sexual harassment that said women who work a lot or dress “in a very sexy way” could trigger men’s sexual urges. 

“Although it was published on (the MyHealth) website, it was written based on the author’s personal opinion and understanding on the subject matter as well as the references obtained by the author at that point in time,” he said via a press statement to the Malay Mail yesterday. The byline stated in the 2016 article, Emotional Impact On Sexual Harassment, was Hema Nair a/p Suppariam. The person did not immediately respond to Coconuts’ request for comment. 

Other content that the public took issue with was an infographic on the “Effects of Sexual Promiscuity,” which questioned readers whether they were “willing to deal with” the consequences of sexual behavior such as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 

There was also a 2012 article, which said that those who prefer to be gay “must be aware that you have chosen an orientation that is less accepted by the public.” It also urged queers to seek professional help. A 2013 article claimed that career-ambitious women who always find themselves in female-centric environments could end up becoming lesbians. 

The Health Ministry’s problematic articles came to light on Monday when former deputy minister for women, family, and community development Hannah Yeoh, 42, called out the article on sexual harassment online, prompting authorities to remove it a day later. The piece had even suggested that possessing a “charming personality” and a “sexy and attractive body” could lead to sexual harassment.

“I have been alerted about this article. This is absolutely wrong. [The Health Ministry] must remove this,” she wrote. 

This afternoon, a caption on the ministry’s website said: “Sorry, we’re doing some work on the site. Thank you for being patient. We are doing some work on the site and will be back shortly.” 

Most of the articles on the website were authored by medical practitioners registered with the Health Ministry and were mostly published between 2008 and 2017.

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