Comprehensive definition of sexual harassment is a must - Christina Liew
3 March 2022
By Wartawan Nabalu News
KUALA LUMPUR: Member of Parliament for Tawau Datuk Christina Liew has called for a comprehensive definition of sexual harassment to include all forms of violation against an individual.
She was referring to the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021 that was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on December 15 last year. Its main aim is to establish a tribunal for the hearing of sexual harassment complaints and claims.
"From my observation, we need a comprehensive definition of sexual harassment to cover all situations that can happen in the workplace, educational institutions and public places.
"As it is, the Bill does not classify any specific conduct as sexual harassment or an offence under the Bill. Please make it clear what qualifies as sexual harassment or sexual harasser," she said in her speech in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on the Royal Address of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Wednesday.
In his address at the opening of Parliament on February 28, His Majesty welcomed the government’s efforts to table the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill that will provide benefits and protection to those affected.
Sharing her other observations on the shortcomings of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021, Liew, who is also Api Api Assemblywoman, stressed that apparently, provisions to specifically deal with sexual harassment at the workplace are blatantly missing.
"These should be put in place, given that the majority of cases occur at the workplace. The Bill does not spell out what the victim should do if sexually harassed at the workplace," she pointed out, adding there should be a requirement for employers to establish channels for reporting cases.
The Tawau MP also called for legal representation to be allowed to ensure fairness at the Tribunal hearings.
"No legal representation is allowed as stipulated in the Bill. While it is good that hearings by the Tribunal will not be open to the public, parties to the proceedings are, however, not allowed to be represented by an advocate and solicitor (except where a party to the proceedings is a minor or is mentally disabled)," she lamented.
Liew supported calls from various women's rights activist groups in the country for the Bill to have survivor-centric redress mechanisms.
"For instance, in the event of a perpetrator being an employer or a superior or a person in a position of power, the complainant will be in a disadvantaged position as she may feel intimidated.
"She needs protection from retaliation or revenge by the offender after the Tribunal Award or Order has been issued. This particular aspect is not stated in the Bill," she asserted.
Neither does it prohibit future harassment against the same complainant who is clearly in a vulnerable position, Liew said. "I hope the shortcomings of this Bill will be rectified accordingly," she added.
The formulation of the Sexual Harassment Bill dates back to the Barisan Nasional (BN) era which ended in May 2018.
As far back as 1998, the then National Unity and Social Development Ministry set up the Sexual Harassment Working Group and a Technical Committee to facilitate the drafting of a specific law to protect women against sexual harassment in the workplace, tertiary education institutions and public places (including cases on public transport).
According to Liew, the Bill was reviewed in 2018 by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Administration.
"However, all efforts towards getting the Bill tabled in Parliament were thwarted by the sudden change of government in February 2020. The rest is history," she said.