Sexual Harassment in Malaysia

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN MALAYSIA Sexual harassment is a serious offense, such offense often happen to woman especially in a workplace where majority employees are male or often the employer to the female worker is a man. In Malaysia, sexual harassment victims are usually the female workers. Sexual harassment could be anything from a verbal harassment, making inappropriate remarks, suggestion inappropriate stuff towards a female employee.

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Sexual harassment could also be persistent flirting and making distasteful inappropriate body contact like light touching, pinching, patting, hugging and fondling. It is surprise to know that Malaysia does not have a law specifically for combating sexual harassment in workplace until the amendment done on Employment Act 1955 in 2012. Before that, sexual harassment is governed by a code of practice called the Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. This code of practice was introduced by the Ministry of Human Resources after the issue of sexual harassment has reached to its peak, forcing the authority to come out with this solution as the only law before this code is Section 509 of the Penal Code which reads “Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any women, utters any words, makes any sound or gesture or exhibit any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years or with fine, or with both”. Section 509 Penal Code only deals with sexual harassment in the physical aspect, that means making inappropriate remarks does not amount to sexual harassment.[1] Clearly by the enforcement of this law alone is not sufficient to combat this issue and eventually pressured the Ministry to produce such code of practice. This Code offers a much more practical rule for employers and employees to follow in the protection of the employee from sexual harassments. This Code also provides a far wider definition of sexual harassment. It is stated in article 4 of the Code that “Any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature having the effect of verbal, non-verbal, visual, psychological or physical harassment: that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by the recipient as placing a condition of a sexual nature on her/his employment; or that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by the recipient as an offence or humiliation, or a threat to his/her well-being, but has no direct link to her/his employment”.[2] This definition is indeed an improvement compare to the Penal Code’s Section 509 which only covers physical aspect of sexual harassment, by this Code, those suffers from verbally harassment and psychological harassment are protected. Furthermore, this Code had distinguished sex harassment into two categorized which is sexual coercion and sexual annoyance.

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