SWWS urges new government to pass Sexual Harassment Bill without delay

File photo. Photo source: Picpedia

KUCHING, Aug 25: The Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) has called on the new Malaysia government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to table and pass the long delayed Sexual Harassment Bill this year as more protection is urgently needed for victims and survivors, especially children.

In a media release today, SWWS emphasised that participants of its recently organised webinar titled ‘Cyber Sexual Harassment: Are we protected?’ have in a poll unanimously called for the Bill to be passed as an Act this year.

Women Aid’s Organisation (WAO) deputy executive director and advocacy director Yu Ren Chung, in his presentation, outlined the gaps in the current provision for addressing sexual harassment across different settings.

Yu and Yeo were the guest speakers at SWWS’s recent ‘Cyber Sexual Harassment: Are we protected?’ webinar. Photo credit: SWWS Facebook page

“Back in 2016, a survey on cyber harassments already found that over half of the respondents had experienced at least one form of online harassment.

“The Sexual Harassment Act is needed to have a clear definition, increase coverage and improve access to justice,” he said.

With the Covid-19 pandemic pushed people to spend more of their lives online, SWWS member and a lawyer Chua Kuan Ching also pointed out that the incidence of online sexual harassment was likely to have increased but unfortunately, the much needed protection has not.

She moderated the session together with SWWS member Kimberley Tan, who also leads the ‘#bukansalahkamek’ campaign, to raise awareness and stop sexual violence in Sarawak.

Elaborating further, a recent research conducted by Jennifer Chan showed that 29.5 per cent of those surveyed had experienced cyber sexual harassment and that 89.4 per cent either did not know or were not sure of the procedures on how to report online harassment.

Even more worrying is the vulnerability of children to cyber sexual harassment, which was raised by primary school counsellor Yvonne Yeo, in her presentation, on how young children are at risk including from the games they played where predators hid their true identity so that they can groom children.

“With children now having access to smartphones, it is important for parents to have open communication with their children so the children feel safe to share anything which is troubling them personally.

“In a global index by Out of the Shadows, Malaysia is rated as having zero protection for internet protection. It is also known from police data that close to 20,000 people in Malaysia downloaded child pornography in 2019.

“Again, the numbers are likely to have increased since lockdowns have become common place. Data from a group tracking child sexual exploitation online has reported a 10 per cent increase in reports from Malaysia in 2020 compared to 2019.”

SWWS stressed that all these data showed the urgent need to have a comprehensive Sexual Harassment Act in place promptly with clear information for the public so those encountering such abuse know how to report and react.

SWWS also emphasised the importance for more public awareness including child-friendly discussions in schools.

For women and children who are troubled by such Internet abuse and needing support, they can contact SWWS at 082-368853. — DayakDaily