PETALING JAYA: The Sexual Harassment Act will be the first Bill tabled by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry next year, says its Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh.
The new law, among other things, hopes to speed up the investigation process of harassment cases, in order reduce the trauma on victims. It will also encompass harassment in all spaces – the workplace, universities and public spaces.
“The process of handling these cases must be faster. For a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, 14 days can seem forever because she has to go to the office and face the perpetrator every day.
"So we are reviewing SOPs in the current guidelines so that we can speed up the process. The law must not only look good on paper, but be useful for victims of sexual harassment,” said Yeoh.
The ministry’s three-month impact study on sexual harassment is due to wrap-up at the end of January, after which a draft of the new Bill will be drawn up and presented at Parliament early next year.
“This is our priority. Sexual harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of violence against women but it is the least recognised and least reported and the government is looking into the matter seriously and we will work with lawyers and civil society to come up with the stand-alone act that is effective and beneficial for victims,” she said after delivering her keynote address at the joint forum on sexual harassment and violence against women organised by the ministry and the United Nations Populations Fund.
Commenting on the recent sexual harassment case involving popular radio station BFM89.9, Yeoh urged the public to stop circulating the email that blew the whistle on the harassment.
“As much as I understand the intention of the writer to expose these cases, there were many names of survivors mentioned that has been circulating. I appeal to the public to stop circulating the email and stop victimising these women again and again in a public domain.
Have some compassion for the victims involved.
From my experience meeting with the victims of the Sungai Buloh case (where a head of department at a government hospital was accused of sexual harassment of housemen), I can tell you that most victims do not want to pay the price of having to going through their experience again and again,” she said.
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