LETTER | Better mechanisms needed to prevent sexual harassment

Salim Bashir


LETTER | The Malaysian Bar is deeply concerned about the recent allegations made by some women about their experience of being sexually harassed by police at roadblocks. The Malaysian Bar completely denounces sexual harassment and misuse of power by anyone, including police and enforcement authorities. The role of the police and enforcement authorities is to protect citizens and to safeguard the public.

No woman or man should have to suffer the indignity of her or his modesty being insulted or outraged. This sort of behaviour is unacceptable and as a society, we must ensure that proper values are exalted, and people must feel safe as they go about their daily lives. Above all, law enforcement must underpin such fundamental values.

The Malaysian Bar calls for strict standard operating procedures to be put in place, where female police officers are stationed at all roadblocks to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

Pursuant to section 19(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, whenever it is necessary to cause a woman to be searched, the search shall be made by another woman with strict regard to decency.

The Malaysian Bar wishes to assert that the police must behave professionally at all times while carrying out their duties. They should not ask questions that are irrelevant during roadblocks, and they must not ask for an individual’s private details that will infringe on one’s privacy.

Power comes with responsibility, and this is especially so for those in positions of authority. The Malaysian Bar calls for fair and thorough investigations into this matter. We also call on the government to expedite the tabling of the Sexual Harassment Bill in Parliament, in providing better awareness and protection to the victims of such incidents. The bill must be holistic, and ensure that complainants feel safe, without the fear of being further harassed or intimidated. There should be no further delay in tabling a bill of such public importance.

The Malaysian Bar also calls for greater public awareness and the provision of a suitable support system for those who have experienced emotional and psychological stress as a result of sexual harassment. It is high time for legal and social reform so that everyone can feel safe.

SALIM BASHIR is the president of the Malaysian Bar.

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