What Can I Do?

imageIf you are being sexually harassed in your workplace, here are some actions you can take:

  1. Tell the harasser that his behaviour is unwelcome and that you want it to STOP. Say it firmly so the harasser knows you mean business! The harasser may stop once he knows his behaviour is unwelcome.
  2. If the harassment continues, talk to someone in your organisation who can help you. Approach your Human Resource Officer or Sexual Harassment Counsellor and your Employee/Union Representative. If it is your Manager or Supervisor who is harassing you, speak to someone more senior, as well as to your Personnel Officer and Union Representative.
  3. Record the details of when, where, and how the incidents happened. If the same person is also harassing any of your colleagues, ask them to keep records too. This can help establish a case against your harasser.
  4. If none of these are possible or if no action is taken by your employer, then you should seek help from outside the organisation you work for:
    1. You can complain to the Labour Department
    2. You can lodge a police report
    3. You can even try to sue the harasser

(a) Complain to the Labour Department in your State

The government is presently proposing a law to make it compulsory for employers to investigate complaints of sexual harassment. However, until such a law is in place, the Labour Department cannot force employers to take action. When you make a complaint to the Labour Department, the Department can pressure your employer to look into your matter seriously by requesting an internal investigation.

(b) Lodging a Police Report

Legally speaking, there is no specific offence of sexual harassment in Malaysia. Hence, if a police report were lodged, the police would have to look to the general criminal law (Penal Code) in order to decide which particular offence to charge the harasser with. The case would then be treated like any other sexual offence case.

Again, lodging a police report could also be an effective tool. In addition to the police investigation and possible charges in court, it could send a clear message to the harasser that he is not getting away with it since the police are aware of the matter.

(c) Suing the Harasser

It may be possible to file a civil suit against the harasser under certain circumstances. If you wish to take this step, you should consult a lawyer to get an opinion on the particular facts of your case. However, going to court is usually an expensive and time-consuming process.

Proving a case of sexual harassment can be difficult – since harassment usually takes place in private, there may be a lack of witnesses. Furthermore, the absence of a specific law on sexual harassment can make it a problem establishing a case. But there are people within your workplace, as well as other groups, such as Trade Unions, who can support you.

By speaking up, you could be helping not only yourself, but other victims of the same harasser as well by strengthening the case. You may also help prevent the perpetrator from repeating the offence in future.

So don’t give up!

Information taken from pamphlet on “What is Sexual Harassment?” by the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) and from WCC’s pamphlet on “Sexual Harassment: Don’t take it lightly!”

Sexual Harassment in Malaysia

Currently, sexual harassment is covered under part XVA Employment Act 1955. Unfortunately, it has a lot of limitations. Since 2000, WCC has been spearheading the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) to campaign for a sexual harassment law for Malaysia.

At the moment, under Section 509 of the Penal Code provides that:

“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”. 

The current Penal Code, section 509 deals more with physical aspects of sexual harassment, not all sexual harassment perpetrators may be successfully brought to justice.

The Ministry of Human Resources launched the Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in 1999. However, the Code is not the law and adopting the Code in voluntary for employers. As the Code gives guide for internal inquiry only, it is hardly an effective measure against the problem

Check out our Legal Reform page for more information on memorandums and other advocacy efforts for this campaign including JAG’s proposed Sexual Harassment Bill.

Tips on How to Say “Stop”:

Here are some different ways you can say “stop”:

  • “When you look at me like that, I feel really uncomfortable. I’m asking you to stop it.”
  • “I’ve said ‘no’ before when you’ve asked me out, and I’m not going to change my mind. If you don’t stop, I’m going to have to tell the boss (or manager, teacher, etc.) about it.”
  • “I am going to file a report if you touch me (talk to me, say that, etc.) again.”
  • “Yeah, I do have a sense of humour. But what you’re saying isn’t a joke – it’s sexual harassment. If you don’t stop, I will need to speak to our boss (manager, principal, etc.).”

Remember, sexual harassment is not your fault.