Raising awareness on sexual harassment in the workplace

Izah Azahari

Employees who have become a victim of sexual harassment whether by a supervisor or co-worker, must report to their superiors. Some victims refuse to report the harassment due to embarrassment, the worry of being insulted, blamed, or their safety threatened or being fired. But it is vital to deal with the issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.

This was revealed during a community outreach programme to raise public awareness on sexual harassment, a topic highlighted by the 30th Executive Development Programme for Middle Management Officers (EDPMMO) 2020.

Various steps have also been implemented and improved by heads of department or employers, including enforcing policies to address sexual harassment, such as taking seriously reports made by the victims and protecting them and conducting investigations fairly.

It is also important to provide guidance and understanding among employees about the boundaries to curb sexual harassment in the workplace. There is no doubt that there are employees who do not know or are not aware of their rights when faced with sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, awareness campaigns on sexual harassment should be widely given to employees so that they know their rights and what legal action can be taken so that sexual harassment can be stopped.

The EDPMMO programme participants have implemented several initiatives to increase public awareness on sexual harassment including carrying out discussions with private and government sectors, along with non-government organisations (NGOs).

As an unacceptable, undesirable and inappropriate act, sexual harassment can cause the victim to feel offended and humiliated, which can also occur anywhere, whether in the workplace, school, higher institutions, or public places.

Sexual harassment can be come in different forms – physical, verbal, signals, visual or
psychological.

These acts can have negative effects on the victims including discomfort, restlessness, lack of self-confidence, sadness, insecurity especially if the harassment is experienced continuously, and can also leave victims feeling traumatised, affecting emotional stability that may lead to depression and suicidal tendencies.

It is important for victims to receive help and support, not only from family and friends, but also mental health professionals.

Legal action regarding sexual harassment in Brunei Darussalam can be found in Chapter 22 of the Laws of Brunei Penal Code; Section 197 of the Syariah Penal Code Order, 2013; and Regulation 29 of the General Orders 1961.

When an individual is sexually harrased, it is important to act swiftly to deter the act from re-occurring as it is the responsibility of all parties who have knowledge of the harassment, such as informing the perpetrator to stop the behaviour, getting support from family and friends.

If the perpetrator does not stop, it is important to reach out to authorities. Reports can also be made to the Community Development Department (JAPEM) for assistance in terms of rehabilitation.