KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development is looking into the possibility of introducing specific legislation to address sexual harassment issues, Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan said today.

She said that in drafting the new act, the ministry had held a consultation session with the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) that was also attended by several NGOs.

“The ministry will also conduct a study by gathering public feedback, data and methods of getting evidence in the cases involved to help formulate policies and strategies in addressing sexual harassment issues,” she told the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House).

Yeoh was replying to a question from Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) who had wanted to know what had been done by the government to improve the existing laws and introduce new legislation on gender equality and sexual harassment for better protection of women and children.

She said a request for an allocation to conduct the study had been submitted to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).

Elaborating, Yeoh said several provisions of the law or code of practice guidelines had been introduced by the government to curb sexual harassment, namely under the Penal Code; amendments to the Employment Act 1955; Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Guidelines on Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in the Public Service.

“However, the provisions of existing legislation have to be improved so that efforts to contain sexual harassment are more effective. This is because the provisions under the Penal Code are too general and the burden of proof in the cases referred to must be beyond reasonable doubt,” she said.

She said that based on statistics from the Public Service Department (PSD), over the last three years (2015 to 2017) there were 47 disciplinary cases involving sexual harassment.

Of the total, 20 were issued a warning letter, nine were punished with the deferment of increment, six had their salary reduced, six were fired, four were fined, one was denied the right to emoluments and one was demoted.

“In comparison to the total number of civil servants, which is about 1.6 million, this may not be a real reflection of sexual harassment incidents because based on feedback received many are not aware of the guidelines and some do not know whom to report to.

“If the victims happen to be under the charge of the perpetrator, they may be afraid to lodge a report so we have to start a campaign to educate workers,” Yeoh said in reply to a supplementary question from Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) who enquired about the number of sexual harassment cases and action that had been taken.

As for the private sector, she said 15 cases were reported to the Ministry of Human Resources as of June this year, 24 cases were reported in 2017; twenty-six in 2016; fourteen in 2015; fourteen in 2014 and fourteen in 2013.

“From our observation, there are only a few cases as the code of practice is not mandatory for private sector companies, and many are unaware of their rights should they become victims of sexual harassment.

As such, a campaign will be organised to educate everyone in the private and public sectors to make them aware of their rights,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said, the ministry was actively conducting a consultative session to discuss the content framework of the proposed Gender Equality Act to be submitted to the AG’s Chambers.

Source: NAM News Network

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