84pc women graduates say harassment laws inadequate

Lyna Mohamad

Studies from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States of America reveal that 75 per cent cases of sexual harassment at work went unreported.

Meanwhile, the Women Graduates Association of Brunei Darussalam (PSW) recorded 84 per cent of respondents as saying that legal protection is not sufficient for the victims of workplace sexual harassment.

These statistics were cited by ASP Hajah Nur Amni Alyani binti Haji Abdul Rahman from the Women and Children Abuse Investigation Unit of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) yesterday. She was delivering a talk on sexual harassment titled, ‘Against Outraging Modesty Awareness: S’Cuse Me, Know Your Limits!’.

Organised by the PM819 batch of students at Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Centre for Lifelong Learning, the talk was held at the Health Promotion Centre, Commonwealth Drive.

ASP Hajah Nur Amni Alyani also disclosed the findings of a study conducted by the Association for Women for Action and Research in Singapore, which found that 79 per cent of sexual harassment at work involved women.

“About 55 per cent of Bruneian women who participated in the study conducted by the Women Graduates Association of Brunei Darussalam, reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace,” she said.

Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari at the event. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

Guest speaker Hajah Zuraidah binti Pehin Dato Haji Sidek of the PSW, who also delivered a talk on the subject.

The event was attended by Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari who told the Bulletin, “Sexual harassment is not an easy issue to discuss, but it needs to be said.

“We often hear stories of people who have been abused verbally or physically, but do not report them, for various reasons. However, we cannot just talk about punishment alone, but make sure that everyone understands sexual jokes must not and should not be treated as normal. Unwanted physical touching should also not be condoned.”

Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa also suggested the need for the strengthening of policies on sexual harassment in the public and private spheres.

“These include mandatory talks on sexual harassment in both the public and private sectors; better awareness on reporting mechanisms for the public and private sectors, as well as the general public; and also education that starts from the primary level, so that we can teach our children to respect their bodies and to respect each other,” she said.

“Private companies should also have their own policies on sexual harassment in the workplace, and ensure that there are reporting mechanisms in place to protect employees from further being victimised.”

Earlier, the team leader of PM819, Rabiatul Adawiyah binti Osman Zaini, in her welcoming remarks said that the subject matter was intended to raise more awareness on sexual harassment in Brunei Darussalam, while also providing advice and assistance to the ‘silent’ victims.

“At the same time it aims to raise awareness that the beibun (joking) terminology has its limits, which can occur not only in a working environment, but also in public and at home. Not only does it happen to women and children, but also to men,” she said.