By Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
We applaud the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) decision to appeal the sentence handed down to Lor Ka Hoo and Tan Sit Fun who were recently convicted of harassing and interfering in the duties of a female Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) officer over a parking ticket dispute.
However, we urge the AG’s Chambers to consider the fact that the husband’s actions actually fall under sexual harassment.
So, instead of charging him with a criminal offence under Section 353 of the Penal Code, for interference of duty, which still carries up to two years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both, he should have been slapped with charges under Section 354 of the Penal Code.
Section 354 of the Penal Code states that whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage, the modesty of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years or with fine or with whipping or with any two of such punishments.
Modesty is not defined by the Penal Code and therefore it depends on a person’s moral, socio-cultural, background, race and religion to decide whether a harraser’s action constitutes sexual harassment or otherwise.
It’s obvious from the video being circulated online that sexual harassment had actually taken place involving a tudung-clad Muslim female officer who struggled to break free from the man, who clearly had made unwanted physical contact with her under the pretext of protesting against a parking ticket.
We condemn any woman being subjected to unwanted physical contact, regardless of religion or race. And for the Muslim woman, this is further aggravated by the fact that both her dignity, and religious requirement that she adheres to, had been violated by the harraser.
The reluctance to classify this under the sexual harassment category will only perpetuate similar lascivious behaviour in future.
Based on a few studies done, we are already plagued with scores of unreported cases of closed door sexual harassment, especially at the workplace.
Many women do not feel that anyone would believe their stories and the assailants would get light sentences, often, not worth the trouble and humiliation the women have to endure in making reports to the authorities.
So, if this “broad daylight” sexual harassment is only treated as obstructing duty, women will continue to be at the losing end.
We need to deliver the right message that women should be respected, protected and not be taken advantage of in any situation.
Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar is chief information unit of Wanita Isma. -FMT