Tribunal is meant to be more ‘victim-centric’

Legal option: Victims of sexual harassment will soon have a recourse in the form of a tribunal. — Photo posed by models

KUALA LUMPUR: Although victims of sexual harassment will soon have a dedicated tribunal to hear their complaints, proving that a case did take place will still be a challenge.

However, the long-awaited Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill remains a progressive move for Malaysia and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

“Having a law to address sexual harassment is a really new thing, not just for Malaysia, but also the world,” ministry deputy secretary-general (strategic) Chua Choon Hwa told The Star on the sidelines of an Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill media briefing here.

“We do not know where this new law will lead us, but our hope is that we can send a clear signal that whoever commits sexual harassment acts – watch out!

“Once we start to hear cases, we familiarise ourselves and build a methodology of collecting information.

“Enacting this law is a first step but an important one. We want victims of sexual harassment to know that they have a remedy,” he said.

Chua, who gave a presentation at the briefing, said the tribunal system provides an easier and safer avenue for victims to hear cases of sexual harassment – compared to the more complex and costly court system.

“In court, the burden of proof is to prove that the case occurred beyond reasonable doubt. This is difficult, as sexual harassment acts like verbal remarks or gestures are hard to prove in court. This is why many victims feel reluctant to report cases.

“As for the tribunal, the burden of proof is on the balance of probability, so it should be easier for the victim. But this is still not going to be an easy task. Imagine, in cases of domestic violence, for example.

“A lot of cases get thrown out even though there is evidence of physical assault on the victim.

“So what more in a sexual harassment case if there is no eyewitness to prove it happened?” he said.

A victim who wishes to file a complaint of sexual harassment will have to fill up a form and pay a nominal registration fee.

They are not required to lodge a police report, and both the complainant and respondent do not need to have legal representation.

“This tribunal is meant to be more victim-centric,” added Chua.

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