On Wednesday (20 July), the Dewan Rakyat has voted to pass the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill to protect both men and women against sexual harassment.
Speaking in the wrap-up speech in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said, “This bill is important and timely in putting an end to the normalisation of sexual harassment.”
“This is the first step for Malaysia to provide protection (for victims) against sexual harassment,” she added, reported FMT.
Meanwhile, she also said that although the law is more towards the protection of women against sexual harassment, the law will also apply to men. “The sexual harassment laws cover all individuals irrespective of gender,” she said.
Under the new bill, any uncalled behaviour in any form, be it verbal or non-verbal, visual, signal, or physical, directed towards another person and which offends, disrespects, or harms their well-being is categorised as sexual harassment.
According to The Star, those found guilty under this act may end up paying their victims up to RM250,000 in compensation or face imprisonment for two years. In addition, the offender will have to issue an apology to the victim.
If the act of sexual harassment is done in public, the offender will have to make a public apology.
As for enforcement, Rina said that sexual harassment cases will be dealt with by a 12-member Anti-Sexual Harassment Tribunal to be set up for the purpose. The tribunal will comprise former members of the judiciary, police officers, and experienced lawyers, to hear the claims.
The complainant and the accused would both have the right to be present during the proceedings and, if the case is complex, a right to legal representation, she said.
Meanwhile, any award made by the tribunal would be final and it would parties will only allowed to challenge the compensation set by the tribunal and appeal to the High Court for a judicial review.
The minister added that the tribunal would have the authority to reject frivolous complaints, and those wrongly accused could lodge a criminal defamation report.
Rina added that the tribunal must also make a decision within 60 days of the first proceeding, with the ruling meted out with grounds for or against it.
At the same time, Rina said companies will also be required to display anti-sexual harassment posters or materials in the workplace.
“We have also agreed to increase the penalty from RM10,000 to RM50,000 for companies who fail to manage incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace,” she said.
Rina also said that her ministry will be conducting a nationwide campaign to educate the public on the Sexual Harassment Act. “We will not stop at gazetting this bill. We will improve this act based on current needs and situation,” she said.
“It will be more practical for improvements to be made after seeing how the law operates.”
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