Thursday, October 28

High time law enacted to address sexual harassment issues, says senior lecturer

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Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow

KUCHING: It is high time for the government to enact a law to regulate issues pertaining to sexual harassment in the country, said senior lecturer of Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow.

According to him, Malaysia currently has no specific legislation to address sexual harassment issues even though there are existing laws that can address the complex matter.

He said among the laws that could be considered to deal with sexual harassment are Penal Code (Act 574), Employment Act 1955 (Act 265), Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177) and Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514).

He added that administrative laws such as the Code of Conduct of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 and the government Circular Guidelines for Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace No.5, 2018 could also be considered.

“The time has come for everybody especially the government to take sexual harassment issue seriously. There have been many reported cases involving sexual harassment in the country,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Recently, a local university student lodged a police report over alleged sexual harassment involving an associate professor. However, the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) has decided not to file any charge against the accused.

Muzaffar felt that the AGC’s decision may give rise to questions and lead to debates, pointing out that sexual harassment incidents were not unheard of in the country.

He said there had been sexual harassment incidents reported in the news, and in recent years, sexual harassment was even alleged by young lawyers, intern medical students as well as journalists while doing their job.

“Sexual harassment is a type of harassment that relates to a sexual nature and it is unwanted by the recipient. It includes a range of actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or sexual assault.

“Sexual harassment can occur at any place like workplace, home and school. It can also happen to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group,” he added.

Muzaffar observed that victims of sexual harassment had the tendency to keep the problem to themselves as the nature of such offence remained sensitive in the society like Malaysia.

He said once these victims keep to themselves, their mind and emotions start to become unstable and would eventually affect their own life and the life of everybody close to them.

As such, he called for serious steps to be taken to keep the problem at bay.

He said a couple of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in 2001 called for a stand-alone law on sexual harassment to be enacted in the country.

At present, he said work was underway by these NGOs to push the government to pass such legislation in Parliament.

Muzaffar said the proposed legislation, among others, focused on the creations of special tribunal, procedure, remedies, counselling and protection against retaliation and victimisation for both victims and witnesses in sexual harassment cases.

“It is time to enact a stand-alone law to address sexual harassment more comprehensively and effectively in the country,” he added.