KUALA LUMPUR | The Dewan Rakyat has passed the sexual harassment bill through a voice vote.

The bill was passed after debates yesterday and today involving 26 MPs. It was tabled for its second reading yesterday.

“This bill is important and timely in putting an end to the normalisation of sexual harassment.

“This is the first step for Malaysia to provide protection (for victims) against sexual harassment,” said women, family and community development minister Rina Harun in her winding-up speech.

She thanked women’s rights groups, federal and state agencies, and MPs for their involvement in drafting the bill.

Rina added that the ministry would reach out to the press and organise a nationwide “tour” to educate the public on the Sexual Harassment Act.

The tabling of the sexual harassment bill had been postponed several times over the last two years. It was tabled for the first reading in December.

The frequent postponements of the bill had led several parties, most notably women’s rights groups, to call for the government to table the bill as soon as possible.

Rina said the ministry would ensure that only those who were most qualified and experienced in handling sexual harassment cases, such as counsellors and police officers, would be appointed to the tribunal on sexual harassment once it is established under the act.

She added that the ministry would organise courses to educate the press on ethical reporting of sexual harassment cases.

Prior to the tabling of the bill for the third reading, several MPs took the opportunity to share their views.

Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) said despite the bill being imperfect, there were provisions in it that were important for victims of sexual harassment.

She called for the act to be subjected to constant scrutiny and evaluation once it is enforced.

In passing the bill, Mukhriz Mahathir (Pejuang-Jerlun) hoped for a change in the culture of the Dewan Rakyat. He urged MPs to refrain from making sexist remarks in the lower house.

Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) thanked the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), which had been campaigning for a law on the matter since 1985.

“I wished they never had to wait this long to get justice.”

The bill will now be brought before the Dewan Negara and receive the royal assent before being gazetted for enforcement.

©FMT News