FEAR and ignorance are reasons why many cases of sexual harassment against women in the workplace go unreported, says Hannah Yeoh.
“Between 2015 and last year, a total of 47 cases of sexual harassment were reported in the public sector which has 1.6 million civil servants..
“I feel this may not be a real reflection of the situation,” said the Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister when replying a supplementary question by Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang).
Despite having a mechanism for victims to lodge complaints, Yeoh said many were not aware of how to do it.
“There are cases in which the victim is an officer working under the wrongdoer, and is afraid to file a report,” she said.
Yeoh also said she was shocked at the response given by the health deputy director-general (Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar) over allegations of sexual harassment by an orthopaedic head of department.
“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 all ministries should conduct a gender sensitisation course for their respective heads of department.
On sexual harassment in the private sector, Yeoh said only a handful of victims had come forward to lodge reports.
There are only 15 cases reported as at June this year, 24 cases last year and 26 cases in 2016.
“The reason for the low number of reports is because the code against sexual harassment is not mandatory while awareness is still lacking,” she said.
To a question by Maria Chin Abdullah (Pakatan-Petaling Jaya), Yeoh said her ministry was working towards drafting new laws on gender discrimination and gender equality.
On Sunday, The Star carried a frontpage expose of a sex predator in a Klang Valley hospital.
Since then, more victims, including housemen, have come forward to lodge complaints of sexual abuses in hospitals.
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