Government to shorten investigation period for sexual harassment in civil service

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The women, family and community development ministry is studying a proposal to shorten the time period to investigate cases of sexual harassment in the workplace for civil servants.

Deputy minister Hannah Yeoh said victims might feel as though the 21-day period stipulated under the current standard operating procedures (SOP) was too long.

“Usually for sexual harassment at the workplace, even 14 days of investigation may seem like forever when the perpetrator is a colleague.

“That is why we need to revamp and review the existing SOP,” she told reporters after a forum on the elimination of violence against women here today.

She said the ministry was also looking at revamping the SOP so that all sexual harassment reports are channelled to the integrity unit of each public agency.

“The current SOP is that when you have a sexual harassment case, you report it to your immediate boss.”

Citing a recent case in the Sungai Buloh Hospital, however, she asked what would happen if the victim’s immediate boss was in fact the perpetrator.

“So we are revamping the SOP within the civil service to make sure that (the reports) go to the integrity unit,” she said, adding that the neutral body would then take care of the complaints.

In the Sungai Buloh case, a medical specialist and head of department was accused of harassing house officers.

Yeoh also said her ministry was conducting research on cases related to sexual harassment. The study is expected to be completed by January, after which it will be drafted for discussion with MPs and members of the civil society.

“We will engage with lawyers and all of civil society to ensure that the bill on sexual harassment will be effective for everyone,” she added.