‘Mechanisms needed to address sexual harassment in workplace’

National 2 minutes, 1 second

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

EMPLOYERS need to create mechanisms to address sexual harassment in the workplace, the president of the Women’s Graduates Association (PSW) said yesterday.

Pg Hjh Zabaidah Hj Kamaluddin told The Brunei Times that the public sector lacks an official mechanism or framework to report incidents of sexual harassment and that the offence needs to be clearly defined under the law.

“Our laws have extensive provisions on sexual offences but sexual harassment is not defined in any part of the law.”

Government agencies may have unofficial mechanism for filing complaints – such as reporting the incident to a department head – but that information is not something that is widely shared, she said.

“If an employee makes a complaint to the department but the harassment doesn’t stop – do you go and leave your company? What happens if your employer makes a decision to not do anything about it? The employee should be able to take the complaint to another level through an official mechanism.”

She added: “If there is an official way of dealing with incidents, the harassment may still happen anyway, but the knowledge that a person can take action against you for behaving inappropriately may stop people from acting this way.”

Pg Hjh Zabaidah said PSW is currently conducting an online survey to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, which was launched on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day.

The study will also look at whether there are sufficient and systematic mechanisms in place to deal with complaints by victims.

“The first time an open survey like this on sexual harassment has been done in Brunei,” she said. “We hope by doing an open survey women are going to be comfortable relaying their experiences.”

Initial findings collected over a period of two weeks show that 67 per cent of the respondents were from the public sector, while 28 per cent were from private sector, the remaining four per cent were from unspecified areas.

The PSW president said so far they have received about 100 respondents, but encouraged more people to fill out the survey at http://goo.gl/forms/iVWa25ytbJ in order to broaden the sample size.

The online survey will collect basic information on the respondents before moving on to questions on definition, understanding and awareness of sexual harassment followed by the types of sexual harassment and actions taken against any incidents.

Submissions close on April 8.

The Brunei Times