Anti-sexual harassment lobby welcomes Bill but says fight far from over

·2-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — The Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy Group today welcomed the passing of the Bill on the matter yesterday, but noted three key areas that must be looked into to ensure full protection of victims.

The group said in a statement that the enforcement of organisational duties to address and prevent sexual harassment, protections for harassing behaviour that creates a hostile environment and protections against victimisation for those who seek redress were not addressed by the Bill.

“We urge the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) to incorporate [the three areas above] into subsequent and enforceable regulations, supplemented by thorough guidelines, to ensure that the legislation achieves its intended outcome,” it said.

The group, which includes the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), Engender Consultancy and Young Women Making Change, also noted the commitments made by the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun during the second reading of the Bill in Parliament, saying that it stands ready to work with the minister and KPWKM to see them through.

With reference to the Tribunal for Anti-Sexual Harassment, it expressed hopes that members of the tribunal are diverse and intersectional for effective protection of all persons who come before it.

It further said that it hopes the Bill will not be misused against the human rights of marginalised groups, for victim-blaming and moral-policing, or to violate bodily autonomy and freedom of expression.

“The battle was certainly hard-won, but our fight is far from over. With the passing of the Bill, we still have a long journey ahead of us to ensure that it is effectively implemented,” it said.

The Bill was tabled in 2018 after spending 30 years in the making, and was approved through bloc voting yesterday.

Under the law, the mooted Tribunal for Anti-Sexual Harassment will be empowered to award compensation and direct respondents to issue an official apology to complainants.

Among the penalties will be compensation or damages up to RM250,000 for any loss or damage suffered by the complainant. Defendants who fail to comply with the tribunal’s ruling can be fined or imprisoned.

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