Experts: Implementing Act in phases helpful

KUALA LUMPUR: The implementation of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act 2021 in phases will help create more awareness on the topic while ensuring everyone comes on board as the ecosystem prepares for it, experts weigh in.

Asia School of Business chief operating officer Kristina Rai said everyone must be mindful that the ecosystem around us isn’t ready as diversity, inclusion, and sexual harassment knowledge are not things common across the board.

“Some organisations may already have it; some may not have the exposure or know the norms about it.

“So they may not know what it means, so if its implementation is in phases, it will happen but generally, the training and consciousness of it all start from school and workplace awareness.

“I think while legislation comes in place, everything around it must work as well so we don’t have that yet. My concern is what are we doing outside the legislation to create that awareness,” she told The Star.

Rai was among the panel speakers at the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) Level Up forum & launch: Building a Gender Equal Workplace held in conjunction with the WAO Fest 2022 from Sept 23 to 25 at The Square, Publika, here, yesterday.

The law, which was passed in Dewan Rakyat in July followed by Dewan Negara in August, would start with advocacy to provide awareness, education and understanding to the community through a nationwide tour, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun

TalentCorp deputy vice-president (women programmes) Dinatra Mohd Saat said the phase-by-phase implementation will trigger awareness and consciousness.

“I think it is okay for them to roll it out in phases because now people around us will be more conscious for example about a joke they are making. This creates sensitivity to awareness of the law.

“To have that one dedicated law that deals with sexual harassment is important in itself. This is because we have a lot of under-reporting areas which we need to look at.

“So many cases are probably happening but not reported, so we need to look at the law, that is a good start,” she said.

WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said that instead of striving for perfection, progress in the matter was more crucial

She said although the legislation may not be perfect, and there are gaps within the law, it can be improved over time.

“It is not enough just to have a law in place but we need infrastructure and environment in place so that the duty bearers will discharge their duties.

“Application within the educational institution of the law is also good because anecdotally from what we know there is a high prevalence of sexual harassment experienced by a lot of men aged between 18 and 25. So, a lot of young men are also facing this issue.

“Again, this is about cultural change and placing social values about safety on gender-based violence and driving the conversation ahead,” she said.

Under the law, those found to have committed sexual harassment may end up paying their victims compensation of up to RM250,000 or be jailed for two years.

The law also provides for the setting up of a 12-member Anti-Sexual Harassment Tribunal to hear claims of sexual harassment.

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