What Is Sexual Harassment And The Forms?
- Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual comments, unwanted fondling, touching, petting, pinching, stroking, hugging, etc, lewd gestures, jokes, emails, SMSes, pornographic pictures, coercion, cat calls and more. The most common form of sexual harassment are verbal forms of harassment such as jokes, obscene language and suggestive remarks. Many consider these ‘harmless’ and victims are often accused of over-reacting.
What Should I Do If I Am Sexually Harassed?
- Tell the harasser that you don’t like his actions and that you want him to stop.
- If the harassment continues, tell your Human Resources department or your union representative.
- Keep all evidence of the harassment for e.g. emails, smses etc.
- Keep a written account of the harassment including date, time, the harasser’s name and how the incident(s) happened.
- If no action is taken or there is no one you can report this to within your organisation or company, you may lodge a report with the Labour Department or the police.
- Tell a trusted colleague who can give you emotional support.
- Call us or a women’s NGO for help and guidance.
- While there is currently no Malaysian law criminalising sexual harassment, legal action can be taken under other provisions in the Penal Code, Employment Act 1955 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967.
How Can I Help A Person Facing Sexual Harassment?
- Speak up if you witness a case of sexual harassment. Tell the harasser firmly that his behavior is unwelcome and that you want it to stop.
- Report cases of sexual harassment to a person more senior in the instance that your coworker feels afraid to report.
- Suggest to your employer/institution to adopt a sexual harassment policy as a preventive measure.
- Offer your support to colleagues who are being harassed. Check if the person is aware of the steps he/she can take.
Myth Vs. Reality
- Myth 1: Sexual harassment is just flirting.
- Reality: Women who are harassed definitely do not agree with this! Flirting is mutually consensual; sexual harassment is not. Sexual harassment occurs when a party is on the receiving end of unwelcome sexual interaction on a persistent basis.
- Myth 2: Sexual harassment is harmless.
- Reality: This experience of intimidation and humiliation can be very traumatising for victims, resulting in emotional stress, depression, damaged self esteem and low productivity. In certain cases, sexual harassment may also lead to headaches, sleep disturbances, disordered eating, nausea, weight loss or gain and crying spells.
- Myth 3: Sexual harassment is rare.
- Reality: While sexual harassment statistics from the Royal Malaysia Police are not readily available, a study conducted by AWAM and Women’s Development Collective (WDC) found that 35% of respondents in Malaysia had experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment.
- Myth 4: Some women at the workplace “ask” to be sexual harassed (through provocative dressing).
- Reality: This is false as women do not “ask” for unwelcome interactions under any circumstance. Statistics show that women dressing conservatively experience sexual harassment too, so this myth is a form of victim-blaming that has no accurate basis. There is no excuse for harassment regardless of how the woman looks. Anyone can control their sexual feelings and are entirely responsible for their own actions.
- Myth 5: Only young women get harassed
- Reality: Sexual harassment happens to all women some time in their lives, regardless of their age, physical appearance or marital status. Sexual harassment is about the abuse of power — those who feel and are more powerful, harass and intimidate those who are not.