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King’s Speech Highlights Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill in Parliament

Women’s groups like WAO, AWAM, and WCC Penang want improvements to the Bill to, among others, expand the definition of “sexual harassment”.

Malaysia's Parliament. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 – The Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s royal address at the opening of Parliament today commended the government’s efforts to table the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill.

The mention of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021 – which women’s groups feel do not go far enough to combat sexual harassment – in the King’s speech indicates that the government will likely seek to pass the legislation in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting. 

The King’s speech is prepared by the government, outlining the government’s legislative priorities in Parliament. 

“The government’s honourable efforts in tabling the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill is very much welcome. This effort will benefit and defend affected groups,” Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said in his royal address.

His Majesty also called for the policy continuation of ensuring at least 30 per cent women’s participation in decision-making levels to “acknowledge women’s roles and contributions in national mainstream development.” 

The first meeting of the fifth session of the 14th Parliament will run for 16 days until March 24.

The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has previously said that the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill – which was tabled for first reading at the Dewan Rakyat last December – should have a more comprehensive definition of sexual harassment to include “harassment that creates a hostile environment in general”.  

The Bill currently defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, in any form…directed at a person”.

WAO also said the Anti-Sexual Harassment Tribunal should only order sexual harassment complainants to attend any programmes with their consent. 

The Bill, said WAO, should also mandate organisational commitment to prevent, address, and create organisational awareness about sexual harassment. 

This afternoon, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) along with ENGENDER Consultancy and Young Women Making Change will be holding a press conference to announce their campaign for improvements to the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021. WAO is a member of JAG.

The Group has also announced that it will virtually hand over a memorandum on the matter to Members of Parliament, the media and other interested parties during the press conference.

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