WAO calls for enactment of Sexual Harassment Act

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PETALING JAYA: A workplace code of ethics is not sufficient to completely prevent sexual harassment, says the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

WAO today called for Malaysian lawmakers to enact a Sexual Harassment Act.

This follows the suggestion yesterday by lawyer M David Morais, who said it was important for employers to implement a code of conduct at the workplace to prevent such cases from happening.

WAO Communications Officer Tan Heang Lee welcomed the suggestion, but said a code of conduct alone tipped the scales overly in the employers’ favour, especially since it may not be legally binding.

“A code of conduct is also insufficient if employers themselves are the perpetrators of sexual harassment.

“Moreover, a code of conduct places too much power in the hands of the employer to decide the outcome of sexual harassment cases,” she told FMT.

However, Tan said employers should implement a code of conduct regarding sexual harassment as a guideline for employees.

She called on lawmakers to enact an independent Sexual Harassment Act in the country, one that would establish an independent tribunal to investigate sexual harassment cases.

“Sexual harassment may occur in public spaces, schools and so on.

“That’s why we need a Sexual Harassment Act that protects everyone in all contexts.”

Morais had represented Asmah Mohd Nor in a court case recently, where her superior, former Lembaga Tabung Haji Manager Mohd Ridzwan Abdul Razak, had been accused of sexually harassing her.

In June, the Federal Court accepted a High Court decision that Asmah was sexually harassed by her superior at the workplace.

It ordered Mohd Ridzwan to pay costs of RM20,000 to Asmah, on top of the RM120,000 in damages that a lower court had awarded her.

This followed sexual harassment reports Asmah lodged against him.