Sexual harassment law vital so victims no longer suffer in silence, says S'wak minister

Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah. -filepic

KUCHING: The Sexual Harassment Bill - which is expected to be ready next month, is long overdue to address and prevent sexual harassment offences - says a Sarawak minister.

State Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the Bill was crucial as it meant victims of sexual harassment would no longer suffer in silence.

"Most sexual offences are provided for under the Penal Code and other laws, but specific offences that constitute sexual harassment are not provided for in such laws.

"Hence it is crucial to have a sexual harassment law by itself," she said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 16).

On Sunday (Feb 14), Federal Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said the draft of the Bill was in the final stage of scrutiny by the Attorney General's Chambers and would be tabled in the next Dewan Rakyat session.

She said the Bill would be holistic to curb sexual harassment issues and would not be limited to workplace harassment.

Fatimah said she believed the Bill, once enacted, would significantly reduce sexual harassment offences by creating a supportive and sympathetic ecosystem for victims instead of further victimising them.

This, in turn, would encourage victims to come forward and lodge reports, especially when the harasser holds a position of authority, she said.

"A lack of reporting by victims means the harasser or future perpetrator would continue their shameful act," she said.

Fatimah also said it was crucial for sexual harassment cases to be brought to court quickly.

"This can increase confidence in the efficiency of the police, as the enforcement arm of the law, to protect the public from sexual harassment," she said.

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