BY UMSU PRESS
Sexual Harassment In Malaysia
What exactly is sexual harassment ?
According to All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), sexual harassment encapsulates a single or a series of unwelcoming conducts of a sexual nature that is perceived by the recipient to be intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive, with the intent to violate the dignity of the recipient.
Sexual harassment also includes unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassments of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment. Thus, it could potentially occur in various forms such as physical, verbal, gestures, visual, psychological and even online! It is also essential to note that sexual harassments can happen anywhere whether through after-hours conversations, exchanges in the hallways, and non-office settings of employees or peers.
A survey conducted by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) in collaboration with AWAM in 2021 revealed that 57 percent of the respondents had experienced sexual harassment verbally on a regular basis when walking on the streets.
Stigma and culture of victim-blaming
Bitter truth is better than sweet lie - the society’s comprehension of sexual harassment does not do the victims any justice. This is mainly due to the fact that the society tends to be influenced by misconceptions and false beliefs (commonly referred to as ‘rape myths’).
One of the many infamous stigmas is if a woman dresses or behaves in a sexy way she is asking to be sexually harassed. However, studies have found that victims of sexual harassment vary in physical appearance, type of dress, age, and behaviour. As a matter of fact, it is not the dressing causing sexual harassment, but the harasser himself. According to a 2008 research by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 72% of women who encounter sexual harassment wear a niqab or a headscarf (full face and body veil). This suggests that the harassment of a typical Egyptian woman occurs regardless of her attire or appearance, as evidenced by the fact that in 2008, that percentage was roughly equal to the proportion of all women in Egyptian society wearing the hijab and niqab.
Another stigma revolting around the victims of sexual harassment is sexual harassement does not count if it was done under the influence of drug or alcohol. Drug-facilitated sexual harassments occur when alcohols or drugs are used to compromise an individual's ability to consent to sexual activity. These substances facilitate a perpetrator to commit sexual assaults because they impairs a person's ability to resist and can prevent them from remembering details of the assault. However, it is worth noting that being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not imply that the survivor asked to be assaulted or abused. Victims will go into survival mode during a traumatic event. Their brain and body choose action automatically, which is often referred to as Fight, Flight, or Freeze. When the amygdala detects danger and sends signals to your body to shut down other processes, including our hippocampus - the part of our brain responsible for memory storage, are turned off. As a result, a survivor may find it difficult to recall the experience in its entirety, as fragments, or in a linear retelling of the events.
To make matters worse, when overcoming the trauma of sexual assault, victims face with a variety of stigmas. The strongest and most widespread stigma is associated with responsibility. The question of who committed the assault is frequently brought up while meeting with victims. Sexual harassment victims might choose not to speak up for fear of more victimisation and mockery while the offender gets away with it without being held accountable. In response, Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah, Sarawak's Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Family, and Childhood Development Minister, stated that more advocacy and awareness programmes should be carried out to educate the general public on sexual harassment crimes, as well as to have empathy for victims and their rights.
Does the law favour the victims
On 20th July 2020, the first anti-sexual harassment bill was finally passed in the Malaysian Parliament after more than a decade’s worth of work into the legal document which could be traced back to its inception in 2011.
The bill calls for the establishment of a tribunal with closed doors that will hear allegations of sexual harassment, render a verdict, grant compensation, and, if guilty, order the harassers to formally apologise to the complainants. Previously, cases of sexual harassment are addressed as a piecemeal fashion and encountered many challenges ranging from high burden of proof, expensive litigation fees and even the lack of legislative coverage. Sexual harassment is covered under legislations such as the Penal Code (Section 354, Section 355, Section 377D and Section 509), Employment Act 1955 and Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
For any loss or damage incurred by the complaint, offenders may be required to pay compensation or damages of up to RM250,000. Those who disobey the tribunal's decision may be punished or put in jail. Anyone who directly suffers from sexual harassment (verbal, non-verbal, visual, gestural, or physical) can report it, have their case heard, and anticipate a resolution within 60 days after the hearing once the bill is gazetted and the tribunal is operational.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry states that the tribunal would be led by a president and deputy president who will be chosen from among members of the judiciary, though many specifics are still being worked out. The remaining members will be made up of former members of the judiciary or experienced practising lawyers and those with expertise in sexual harassment laws. It is worth noting that there will be at least one man and one woman on the panel.
Disclaimer: The article is merely an academic discussion to express the point of view towards the said issue.
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2022/23 👉
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9/3/2023 11:19:27 am
I appreciate you mentioning that in addition to unwanted sexual approaches and demands for sexual favors, sexual harassment also encompasses additional verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the professional or educational setting. In her job, my friend experienced verbal sexual harassment. I'll aid her in obtaining the law against workplace sexual harassment.
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