While most sexual harassment cases have female victims, men make up 21.1 percent of those reported being targeted.
Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh said statistics from the Royal Malaysian Police from 2013 to 2017 showed that 257 men had reported being victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The remaining 961 out of a total of 1,218 cases involved women as the victims.
“The rest of the complainants were women, but there have been sexual harassment cases involving male victims.”
“In some instances, they shied away from reporting the harassment as they feared no one would believe that they were sexually harassed. These were among the obstacles that prevented them from lodging a report.”
Yeoh was speaking to reporters after opening a seminar on 'Handling Sexual Harassment at the Workplace' at the Northern Region Institute of Public Administration in Sungai Petani today.
She said reports by complainants on sexual harassment must not be brushed aside, but be given serious attention so that investigations could be conducted.
Another factor that could discourage victims from reporting cases is slow prosecution.
Of the 1,218 sexual harassment cases lodged, only 31 had resulted in individuals being charged under Section 509 of the Penal Code, a rate of only 2.5 percent.
Yeoh said 1,187 out of the 1,218 cases of sexual harassment were still under investigation.
She believes that there are still unreported cases of sexual harassment at the workplace due to various factors such as the mechanism in lodging a report and the fact that investigations could take a very long time.
"Meanwhile, the victim has to face the perpetrator at the workplace throughout the investigation period.”
This, she said, compounded the trauma for the victim, who also had to cope with the perception of others at the workplace with regard to the case.
“At the ministry, we are awaiting the results of an impact study which will serve as a guide in drawing up the Sexual Harassment Act and in improving the existing regulations.
"The act will also focus on penalising those who fail to act on the sexual harassment reports or complaints made. It will shorten the standard operating procedure (SOP) during the investigation and ease the process of lodging a report for the victim," she said.
Yeoh also noted that the Public Service Department had issued a circular on the handling of sexual harassment cases in the workplace, which took effect on Dec 12 last year.
She said it had accelerated the process of taking disciplinary action against public servants who committed such transgressions.