PUTRAJAYA | The introduction of a law on sexual harassment and recognising social work as a profession will be among the priorities of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (pic) said the Sexual Harassment Bill, which aims to protect women’s rights and dignity and is Pakatan Harapan’s promises in its election manifesto, is expected to be tabled in Parliament in March.

She said among the elements in the draft of the bill were the comprehensive definition of sexual harassment, more effective complaint and solution mechanisms, remedial elements, and penalties.

“Currently, there are constraints in existing laws, such as the Employment Act 1955 and the Penal Code.

“For example, the Penal Code does not define sexual harassment in detail and also places the burden of proof on victims… for the victims to prove beyond reasonable doubt is very difficult in most sexual harassment cases, ” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said this in a special interview with Bernama and RTM on the ministry’s direction at her office here.

She said the bill on sexual harassment would also be applicable to men as they could also be victims.

Dr Wan Azizah said the bill on sexual harassment was formulated from input provided by stakeholders, who also suggested improvements to the existing judicial system through the establishment of a tribunal, specifically to hear and address cases of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, she said her ministry, by setting up the Malaysian Social Work Profession Council, has also formulated a bill to recognise social work as a profession.

“The Malaysian Social Work Profession Council’s function is to regulate social work as a profession through registration and certification of practices by registered social workers, to set social work standards and education, to promote professional development, and to enhance the image of the social work profession in Malaysia, ” she added.

She said the draft of the bill was now in the final stage at the ministry and would then be submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

In another development, she said her ministry would be launching a special “Talian Kasih” line via WhatsApp on Thursday (Jan 30), especially for those with speech impairments, including the mute.

The “Talian Kasih via WhatsApp” app is also a cheaper option than making telephone calls, she said, adding that so far, only Digi provides free calls to Talian Kasih at 15999.

She said the Talian Kasin centre received a total of 25,868 calls last year, an increase of 40%, compared with 15,046 calls in 2018.

This shows the people are more aware of the services provided by her ministry, she added. – Bernama