Women lawyers’ body slams organisers over response to sexual harassment claim

PETALING JAYA: The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) has hit out at the organisers of a lawyer’s annual party over their response to a sexual harassment allegation, in particular, their apathy towards the victim.

Its president, Sheena Gurbakhash, said she found it “disturbing” that the organisers of the Criminal Lawyers’ Annual Party 2019 (CLAP ’19) chose to focus on the damage being done to the alleged aggressor.

Sheena argued that CLAP ’19 organisers should be aware that any person should have a reasonable expectation to be treated with respect and dignity at a gathering of their peers.

Clearly, she added, this was not the case at the event recently.

Sheena Gurbakhash

“Upon learning of the incident, the organisers of CLAP ’19 failed to show any compassion and empathy for the victim and have instead publicly judged her for the comments she made on social media,” she said in a statement.

She said this could be attributed to victim-blaming, which is prevalent in society, but this perspective should not be reflected by the legal community which should certainly know better.

“It is precisely this attitude that will deter other victims from speaking out and will instead continue to enable a culture of sexual harassment, victimisation and bullying.”

Yesterday, the organisers of the annual criminal lawyers’ party said while they condemned any form of sexual harassment, there appeared to be an attempt by the complainant to have the matter judged by the public.

Its spokesperson, N Sivananthan, noted that the lawyer in question had lodged a police report on Sunday, and immediately thereafter posted details of her complaint on social media.

The organisers also took issue with the contents of the complainant’s police report being made viral, adding that it was clearly done to reveal the suspect’s identity.

In her complaint made at the Sea Park police station on Sunday evening, the victim reportedly said her alleged assailant, who was said to be drunk, groped her at least twice.

The woman, who is in her early 30s, claimed she told the lawyer to stay away from her but he ignored her warnings.