Women and men are coming forward to share their stories as survivors of sexual harassment.
The ball is in the court of the Attorney General and Women, Family and Community Development Minister to guarantee that the Sexual Harassment Bill is prioritised and tabled in the coming Parliament sitting.
Swimmer Cindy Ong(pictured) took to the press 2 weeks ago, telling her own story and experience of being a survivor of sexual harassment by a national coach and even a politician. A male swimmer shared his experience too, witnessing another swimmer being sexually harassed by the same coach. He himself had been violated as a teenager.
Women have been sexually harassed by rogue cops at roadblocks and even most recently of a political party leader who have made lewd remarks on Twitter and later, at lightning speed, deactivated his account citing that it had been hacked.
In the recent furore surrounding the courageous exposé by teenage trailblazer Ain Husniza (pictured) of rape culture sparked by her teacher, many students in institutions of higher learning have also taken to social media to share their experiences being sexually harassed and to reach out to other survivors at the hands of their lecturers and even security guards at their varsities.
Women and men have been sharing how they had been suffering in silence with sexual advances and harassment made by their superiors or peers and chose to remain quiet in fear of losing their jobs.
Not everyone is as privileged as Ministers or Deputy Ministers or their family members who are protected by hidden hands from the bane and pest of being sexually harassed.
Often acts of sexual harassment is the root of sexual violence and rape although the latter crimes may happen without any prior harassment. It is an act of aggression, bullying and supremacy and the Government can and must put a full stop to it by using political will to table the bill in Parliament.
Having a Sexual Harassment Act will mean that women and men need not fear of losing their jobs, being demoted, being unjustly treated, discriminated and ‘cold-storaged’ if they come forward to file a complaint against their harassers. It will also mean that enforcement officers too will be empowered to submit a report on sexual harassment after their investigations, without being too concerned which law to use like now. The same applies for cyberbullying as well.
In July 2020, Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Rina Harun stated that the Sexual Harassment Bill will be tabled by year end in the December 2020 Parliament sitting saying it was in the final stage of drafting the bill. This is suspicious as the bill was already ready to be tabled in the March 2020 sitting before the wretched Sheraton Move and Perikatan Nasional instated itself as the Government of the day. December 2020 came and went and the Minister replied in Parliament that it is with the Attorney General for vetting.
This year on Feb 14th, Rina Harun (pictured) again stated that the Sexual Harassment Bill is expected to be ready in March 2021. Again, it is expected to be ready but there is no news to date.
Stop using the Emergency to cripple the progression of the Sexual Harassment Bill that was birthed by Pakatan Harapan, to be tabled in Parliament. Prioritise it. Reach out to us. Speak to members of civil society who have been advocating this for decades. Have an online meeting with MPs across the political divide to look through the draft of the bill to give constructive criticisms, suggestions and professional opinions to strengthen the document so that we will finally have, after over 20 years of waiting, a robust bill that will protect victims of sexual harassment and ensure justice for them.
No more excuses, Mr Attorney General. No more excuses Mdm Minister Rina Harun. We shouldn’t only act or react when it happens to one of us.
Malaysians are ready for the Sexual Harassment Bill to be tabled in Parliament.
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
DAP’s International Secretary for Women