The government will draft the sexual harassment bill only after an impact study is concluded by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in January next year.
Its Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh said the impact study, which will take three months, is targeted to conclude by Jan 31, 2019, and will take into account public feedback from stakeholders including university students and women in the workforce.
“We will look into how extensive the impact of these sexual harassment cases is.
“Because based on the reports that we receive, there are many more cases where victims might not dare to file a report, so the impact study is very important for us to draft an effective law.
“Our target is to conclude the impact study in January next year, then we will scrutinize it and start our planning to draft a bill to introduce a sexual harassment law,” she said in Parliament on Wednesday (Oct 24).
She said this in reply to a question by Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique (BN-Kota Tinggi) who asked for the Ministry to state its readiness to draft the Sexual Harassment Act.
When asked when she expected to table the bill, Yeoh said practically speaking, it would be too rushed to table it in the next meeting in March 2019.
“For us to draft the bill we must have extensive consultation with stakeholders, women NGOs and others, but we feel that there is urgency and that’s why we asked for the impact study to be shortened to only three months,” she said.
She added that while there are applicable laws under the Penal Code, there was a need for a specific law on sexual harassment as the cases are not always easy to prove.
“Sexual harassment is not only physical but also verbal and is subjective. That’s why we need a specific Act,” she said.
Based on statistics by the Public Service Department, from 2015-2017, there were 47 reported sexual harassment cases in the public sector and 64 cases in the private sector, said Yeoh.
On the Sungai Buloh Hospital “sex predator” case revealed by The Star in an exclusive report in July, where the head of the orthopedic department allegedly victimized a female doctorate trainee,
Yeoh said she believed that the Health Ministry will complete its report and take action based on it.
“My ministry also has representatives in this case and we will scrutinize the action taken by the Health Ministry to ensure that the welfare of victims is taken care of,” she said.