Drumming up support for Act

Chong Eng (left) talking about sexual harassment issues highlighted in a Chinese daily. With her is Ong.

THE state will set up a working group, believed to be the first of its kind, to support the enactment of the Sexual Harassment Act which affords protection to individuals harassed in various contexts. 

State Women, Family Development and Gender Inclusiveness Committee chairman Chong Eng said the working group’s ultimate goal is to make the Act an enforceable one.

“Along the way, the group will rally all the NGOs and other related parties who have been vocal about the need for such an Act.

“The creation and purpose of this group hopefully will be able to provide guidance and other forms of support, advocacy and other necessary drive to make the Sexual Harassment Act a reality in Malaysia,” she said, adding that the group is expected to hold its first meeting this month.

Chong Eng was speaking at the press conference outside the Penang state assembly on the ‘Penang Goes Orange 2018 - Stop Sexual Harassment Campaign’ which will be held at the Penang Bird Park in Seberang Jaya, Butterworth, at 7am on Nov 24.

The working group will be led by Dr Florence Manoranjitham Sinniah and its members will include Kebun Bunga assemblyman Jason Ong, Bertam assemblyman Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq and Chong Eng’s special officer Rachel Teh.

“Sexual harassment is rampant due to the lack of awareness among the public on what kind of acts constitute sexual harassment,” she said.

She also said the perception of sexual harassment may differ among individuals and genders.

The Padang Lalang assemblyman added that there are three reasons why victims find it difficult to come forward, which includes fear of retaliation, the feeling of shame and the sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

“Currently, there is no special and comprehensive law on sexual harassment in Malaysia.

“Despite the fact that sexual harassment crime is subsumed in laws such as the Penal Code (Act 574), Employment Act 1955 (Act 265) as well as administrative guidelines, Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment which was introduced by the Human Resources Ministry in 1999, the laws cannot address this issue holistically.

“Sexual harassment is uncivilised, indecent and goes against good norms and values which reduces the quality and productivity of working life and jeopardises the wellbeing of working men and women,” she said.

Also present at the press conference were Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) chief executive officer Ong Bee Leng, Sungai Pinang assemblyman Lim Siew Khim, Seri Delima assemblyman Syerleena Abdul Rashid and Berapit assemblyman Heng Lee Lee.

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