There is no special and comprehensive law on sexual harassment in Malaysia. Section 509 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the offence of “insulting the modesty of a woman” with a custodial penalty of up to five years, has been regarded as not sufficiently wide to encompass all the elements of sexual harassment.
In August 1999, a Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment (Code of Practice) was introduced by the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR), but sadly, it does not have the force of law.
According to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), as of August 2010, only 400 of 450,000 registered and active companies have adopted and implemented the code.
In August 2005, the Public Services Department issued a circular containing a set of Guidelines pertaining to sexual harassment issues in the public service (Garis Panduan Mengendalikan Gangguan Seksual di Tempat Kerja Dalam Perkhidmatan Awam).
In 2009, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (WFCDM) announced it was in discussions with MOHR regarding a new law on sexual harassment. Its then deputy minister, Datuk Noriah Kasnon, was quoted as saying that between 2005 and 2008, there were 3,906 cases of sexual violence and harassment cases, including rape and molestation, reported to the police.
In 2012, the Employment Act 1955 was amended (by Act A1419) by inserting a new provision defining “sexual harassment” as “any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, visual, gestural or physical, directed at a person which is offensive or humiliating or is a threat to his well being arising out of and in the course of his employment”.
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