Senator's sexist remark shows urgency to ratify ILO convention

N Gopal Kishnam & Irene Xavier

Modified 3 Aug 2019, 9:43 am

LETTER | The Labour Law Reform Coalition is shocked by the sexist remark made by Pakatan Harapan senator Mohd Imran Abd Hamid (photo, above) in Dewan Negara on July 31, 2019.

We urge the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the new ILO convention concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work (C190) as a measure to eliminate the potential threat of violence and harassment against women.

Violence against women is a crime under Malaysian laws under whatever circumstances.

The dressing should not be an excuse for the perpetrator to use violence on another dignified person, let alone calling for the protection of men from committing a crime.

Justification of such severe criminal offence not only insult men and women but also tacitly encourage violence with impunity.

We are saddened that the disrespectful words were uttered by the honourable member of parliament who declared to defend the federal constitution and rule of law during the swearing-in ceremony.

Mohd Imran’s sexist language, as well as previous sexist remarks by BN MPs Bung Mokhtar Radin and Tajuddin Abdul Rahman in the past, and a Perak state exco Paul Yong who was accused of raping his domestic worker, shows there is an urgent need for the government to ratify the newly adopted ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in June 2019.

This is because we don’t know how these elected representatives are going to deal with workers who work in the parliament, political parties, civil service such as navy or government ministries, or at home. Will this sexist attitude escalate to sexual harassment or violence in the workplace?

The threat of gender-based violence is real. In 2018, the Inter-Parliamentary Union conducted a survey and found 67.9 percent of female MPs in European Parliament had received comments relating to their physical appearances or based on gender stereotypes and 24.7 per cent had suffered sexual violence.

Besides, 40.5 percent of the staff of the European Parliament said they had suffered acts of sexual harassment in their work, with 69.2 percent of the cases involving male MPs.

Sexual harassment and violence in Malaysia are on the rise. According to the Women’s Aid Organisation, the police received less than 100 reports of sexual harassment in 2001, but the number has significantly increased to more than 338 in 2016. In addition, there are 1682 cases of rape in 2017.

We call upon the Malaysian government to review its “abstain” position while voting to adopt the Convention on Violence and Harassment in the International Labour Conference.

It is an embarrassment that the ruling coalition did not support an international convention which is perfectly coherent with the criminal justice system in Malaysia, let alone the manifesto of Pakatan Harapan had promised to advance labour rights by putting our labour standards on par with ILO standards.

Earlier, the Labour Law Reform Coalition had proposed to include enforceable code of conduct on sexual harassment to ensure workplace safety. The coalition also supported the enactment of a Sexual Harassment Act to eliminate harassment against men and women, but we do not share the same opinion of Mohd Imran.

The writers are co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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