Step up awareness of sexual harassment, says Sarawak minister

KUCHING: Awareness of sexual harassment should be increased now that it is a criminal offence, says a Sarawak minister.

State Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah (pic) said it was important for people to know that there is now a law protecting them from sexual harassment.

“Alhamdulillah, after 11 years the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill has been passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Once it is gazetted for enforcement, it should be widely publicised to employees regardless of gender, because sexual harassment victims include a number of men as well as women,” she said in a statement on Thursday (July 21).

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Fatimah said advocacy should also include what constitutes sexual harassment and its effects on victims, reporting procedures, as well as assistance and support for victims.

She added that victims were often reluctant to report incidents, particularly if the offender was in a position of power or influence.

“They risk being victimised further instead of getting sympathy and support. This needs to change. The workplace should be a safe space where employees can focus on their jobs,” she said.

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The Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill, which was passed in Parliament on Wednesday (July 20), covers all individuals irrespective of gender.

Under the law, those found to have committed sexual harassment may have to pay their victims a sum of up to RM250,000 in compensation or in default, serve a two-year jail term.

Offenders will also be required to issue an apology, while companies will be required to display anti-sexual harassment posters or materials in the workplace.