The long-awaited Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill is expected to be tabled for "first reading" in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat session, according to Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun.
She said her ministry, together with the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), had jointly reviewed the draft bill from January this year to ensure it can address shortcomings in current legislation and mitigate any enforcement issues.
"I would like to stress that enactment of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act remains a priority for the ministry in cooperation with the AGC.
"At this time, the ministry is waiting for a 'white bill' or approval from the AGC before this bill is presented for cabinet's approval and tabled for first reading in Parliament, expected to be by this year," Rina said in a statement.
The final Dewan Rakyat sitting for this year will begin tomorrow (Sept 13) until Oct 12.
Rina (above) said while the draft bill is still under review, sexual harassment cases continue to be addressed under other existing laws and regulations including the Penal Code, Employment Act 1955, and a public service circular on the handling of related cases in the workplace.
"Therefore we urge victims to continue coming forward to make urgent reports so the existing laws can be enforced to protect their interests and safety," she added.
Rina, who was retained in her ministerial position by current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's administration, had inherited the draft bill from the Pakatan Harapan government.
In the past year, she said further engagements were held with various stakeholders including the Malaysian Employers Federation and the Malaysian Consumer Tribunal.
When contacted, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto however urged Rina to once again consult with all MPs for their feedback on the current draft with new amendments made since Harapan's time over a year ago.
"Else, we will spend a lot of time debating things that could have been ironed out before the reading.
"I have been calling for this for over a year. Share with us, email us the draft, and get our feedback, particularly on definitions and applications of the law (including legal language)," Kasthuri told Malaysiakini.
Separately, a group of MPs, state assembly members, young politicians, and activists who came together as the Tampil Bersuara Secretariat also called for bipartisan cooperation to pass the draft bill as law.
"We also urge the minister (Rina) to open space for a public discussion so that ordinary people can find out more on the direction of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act," they said in a joint statement.
Among those listed as Tampil Bersuara members include Pulai MP Salahuddin Ayub, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, Muda co-founder Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier, the Women's Aid Organisation, and Puteri Umno exco member Khaidiriah Abu Zahar.