In 2001, a coalition of women NGOs known as Joint Action Group Against Violence Against Women (JAG) submitted a memorandum and a Sexual Harassment Bill proposal to the Human Resource Ministry to urge the government to implement an act which criminalizes sexual harassment especially at the workplace. The proposal include setting up of grievance mechanism which addresses the complexity of sexual harassment at the workplace involving the victim, the perpetrator and the management. Until now, after 10 long years, the Government has yet to table the bill. The latest development is Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil proposing a roundtable discussion on the Bill.
Below is Malaysiakini coverage of YB Chong Eng’s press statement on this issue.
It has been 10 years since the Joint Action Group Against Violence Against Women (JAG) submitted a memorandum and a draft Sexual Harassment Bill to the government for consideration.
Since then, there have been too many cases of rape, sodomy, incest and other sexual crimes – with half of the victims being children under the age of 16 – a number that has doubled between the years 2005 and 2009.
When will the excuse proffered for the delay – that the government is still engaged in a “consultation process” on the bill – come to an end and it is made law?
This was the question posed today by DAP’s Wanita chief and the MP for Bukit Mertajam Chong Eng, when calling for an end to the purported ‘consultation process’ and the immediate implementation of the law to criminalise sexual harassment, especially in the workplace.
“Although there have been slight developments throughout the years, the government is apparently taking this issue lightly, with a 10-year delay in tabling the bill.
“Today, we are nation plagued with crimes,” Chong said in a statement directed at the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
In March 2001, a Code of Practice for the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace was launched.
It serves as the only government-sanctioned, though non-compulsory, guideline to tackle the problem.
Women’s groups such as JAG have insisted that only with the implementation of a comprehensive law homing in on sexual harassment can sexual offences be significantly dealt with.
As the existing legal system cannot adequately tackle sexual offences, the government’s refusal to put an Act of Parliament against such crimes in place only proves that it regards the matter as trivial.
“This is definitely not the right frame of mind to fight sexual crimes against women and children,” said Chong, who also chairs the Stop Sexual Crimes Against Children campaign in Penang.
“I hope Shahrizat will not disappoint us again by hiding behind a never-ending consultation process on the Sexual Harassment Bill. If the government is serious in addressing the safety and rights of women, then there is no reason to delay this bill any longer.”