Sexual harassment can befall anyone, anywhere; from workplaces to learning institutions, public places or even worship places. In the past, this misconduct only affected women, but now any gender can be the sexual harassment perpetrator or victim. From the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) 2013 to 2017 statistics, out of a total of 1,218 reported sexual harassment cases, 79% involved women, victims, while 21% were male victims.
According to a December 2019 survey conducted by YouGov Omnibus on 1,002 Malaysians; 36% of local women have experienced sexual harassment, compared to 17% of men. From this, only 53% of victims reported or told someone about their harassment. The main worry not reporting sexual harassment is humiliation (54%), feeling alone and helpless (38%) and fear of consequences (26%).
The Public Service Department issued the Service Circular No. 5 on the Guidelines on Handling Sexual Harassment Cases at the Workplace. It became effective from Dec. 12 2018, replacing the previous service circular No. 22, (2005). This newer policy has improved procedures and accelerated the punitive process of such misbehaviours. In this new policy, there are 12 different types of sexual harassment and based on the respondents’ survey; the sexual assault was the highest with 59%, followed by verbal comments of a sexual nature (48%), public flashing (29%) and unwanted sexualised photography/videography (20%).
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had quoted that many sexual harassment victims fail to report their harassment due to a certain stigma set by society, family and even ambiguities in policies. And unfortunately, shame and silence have allowed the sexual harassment issue in Malaysia to thrive.