KUALA LUMPUR: Fear and ignorance are among the reasons why sexual harassment cases against women at the workplace go unreported, says Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh.
Between 2015 and 2017, there were a total of 47 cases of sexual harassment reported out of 1.6 million civil servants in the public sector.
"I feel this may not be a real reflection of the situation at the respective ministries, as we get a lot of feedback from officers," she said when replying a supplementary question raised by Siti Zailah binti Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) in Parliament Wednesday (Aug 1).
Despite having a mechanism for victims to lodge complaints, she said many were not aware of how to do so.
"There are instances where the victim is an officer working under an offender and is afraid to lodge a complaint," she added.
Yeoh said she was shocked at the recent response given by deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar that there was no police report over allegations of sexual harassment by an orthopaedic head of department at a hospital in the Klang Valley.
"Under the civil service guidelines, there is no need for a police report for investigations to begin.
"We cannot be in a state of denial and brush everything under the carpet as the problem will persist," she said.
Yeoh said that all ministries should conduct a gender sensitisation course for their respective head of departments.
On sexual harassment in the private sector, Yeoh said that only a handful of victims had come forward to lodge reports with the Human Resources Ministry.
She said only 15 cases were reported as of June this year, 24 cases last year and 26 cases in 2015.
"The reason for the low number of reports is because the code against sexual harassment is not mandatory for the private sector while awareness is still lacking," she added.
To a question by Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya), Yeoh said her ministry was working towards drafting new laws on gender discrimination and gender equality.
On July 29, The Star carried a front page expose of the sex predator in a Klang Valley hospital. Since then, more victims, including housemen, have come forward to lodge complaints of sexual abuse that occurred in hospitals, said the Health Ministry.
On Tuesday (July 31), Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said his ministry was investigating allegations of sexual harassment and corruption by senior officials.
The allegations were made via an anonymous letter sent to a news portal.
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