Malaysia passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill with very minor amendments, despite widespread criticism

Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) has passed the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021, despite unaddressed concerns of significant shortcomings in the Bill.

The Bill was initially tabled for its first reading in December 2021 (Read our previous post: “Malaysia’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill tabled in Parliament”). It was then withdrawn from a second reading earlier in 2022, with the government indicating that it would be significantly reviewed following robust feedback received from various parties. Unfortunately, the Bill which was passed this week only had very minor amendments from the first draft.

Due to the limited revisions made from the first draft, our summary of the Bill published in December 2021 is still mostly accurate: https://themalaysianlawyer.com/2021/12/15/anti-sexual-harassment-bill/

These are the material changes in the updated version of the Bill:

  1. A new Clause 7(3) is included, introducing a limitation period for sexual harassment complaints: “A complaint referred to the Tribunal under this Act is subject to the Limitation Act 1953.”
  2. While the original version provided that parties at the hearing of a sexual harassment complaint cannot be represented by an advocate and solicitor, this has been revised [at Clause 13(2)] to provide that legal representation will be allowed if “in the opinion of the Tribunal, the matter in question involves complex issues of law”. The revisions also provide that if one party is allowed to represented by an advocate and solicitor, then the other party will also be so entitled.

With these very limited changes, it appears that the concerns raised by numerous rights organisations who had hoped for “a meticulous review of the Bill” have been left unheard. Time will tell whether the new long-awaited law will be comprehensive enough to protect the rights and wellbeing of sexual harassment victims.

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