Women’s groups: Tribunal must be diverse

PETALING JAYA: Members of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Tribunal must be composed of well-versed Malaysians from various backgrounds and genders who are able to give a fair assessment of each case, say women’s groups.

Veteran women’s rights activist Ivy Josiah said the tribunal would be seen as a “safe” way to report if it has a diverse group of people representing the Malaysian population, including by gender, and if those who lodge complaints are not victimised or face backlash.

“It is important that the tribunal is made up of people who understand the sensitivities and complexities of the issues,” she said.

She believed that with the setting up of the tribunal, victims would be more forthcoming.

“When the Domestic Violence Act was made accessible in 1996, there was an increase in police reports by 200% in 1997,” she said.

Engender Consultant Betty Yeoh said a mechanism must be put in place to ensure that those who come forward would be safe from any form of retaliation.

“It (the tribunal) is opening up an option for people to come forward, but as we know based on all our studies, the elements of fear, shame and not knowing whether they will get the appropriate redress will make people afraid to come forward.

“We need a mechanism under the ministry, maybe a unit to facilitate receiving reports, making sure that the people who come forward can report in a safe manner and not face any retaliation.

“We also need to give support because sexual harassment can be traumatic,” she added.

“Members of the tribunal should be well-versed, have a multicultural background and a balanced composition of both genders.

“If the tribunal is a group of the same kind, they cannot explore the different elements within a case,” she said.

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