The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is deeply concerned over the amendments to the Employment Act (EA) that were recently tabled in parliament, not just in terms of how it affects the rights of the workers but also over the sections pertaining to sexual harassment (SH).
JAG notes the refusal of the minister to acknowledge the validity of the protests from various quarters as to the unjust nature of these amendments. JAG has always highlighted the need for proper legislation against SH and is appalled to see this piecemeal effort despite the submission of a memorandum on the proposed SH Bill by JAG in 2001.
JAG has in the past, engaged the relevant ministries in discussion about the proposed SH legislation via submission of a signature petition, follow-up letters, participation in dialogues, working groups and countless press statements, all of which seem to have mostly gone unheeded by the government.
We had specifically highlighted the reasons why SH requires a specific Act and that it is unsuitable for incorporation in the EA. Despite all these longstanding efforts, we are very disappointed at the government’s blatant disregard of the rights of SH victims as can be seen by the superficial approach to legislate on SH in the EA.
We highlight here some of the major shortcomings of the SH provisions into the EA relating specifically to the mechanism of redress:
It has been 12 years since the government launched the voluntary Code of Practice for the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in 1999 in its efforts to curb SH. Clearly the current amendments are a total letdown to a worker who is sexually harassed and wishes to seek redress.
The amendments pertaining to SH in the EA show a lack of understanding on the issue of SH and the complexities involved in investigating and resolving SH complaints. Worse still it makes a mockery of the mechanisms of redress.
JAG finds these amendments unacceptable and urges the relevant ministry to reconsider JAG’s comprehensive Draft Bill. It is the right of every worker to work in an environment free from sexual and other forms of harassment and be guaranteed proper redress mechanisms. This government is duty bound to ensure that workers rights are protected. JAG urges the government to set aside the EA amendments.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises:
Women’s Centre for Change, (WCC) Penang
All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)