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Thursday, June 22, 2017

'UM sexual harassment policy not followed'

The Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) has expressed concern that the university's procedures for dealing with sexual harassment cases have not been strictly adhered to.
PKAUM said this in response to reports that Universiti Malaya (UM) had asked two international students, who were allegedly sexually assaulted, to retract or refrain from lodging a police report.
"There are detailed guidelines, from lodging a complaint to the investigation process, and even a set timeline of three months for a case to be concluded.
"These two recent cases show weaknesses in the system, as the committee in charge of handling and investigating such cases has been bypassed," it said in a statement today.
It added that UM was amongst the first universities in the country to have a detailed policy on dealing with sexual harassment.
However, it said the two recent cases highlighted the lack of awareness about this policy and the process of lodging a complaint.
"There is a dire need for an integrated response whereby the committee is immediately notified of all sexual harassment cases, so that it has an overview of such cases and can immediately detect repeat offenders as well as the pervasiveness of cases of this nature to allow for more comprehensive redress.
"An urgent alert system also needs to be in place to prevent a serial offender, as in the alleged case above, from further attacking other victims," it said.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported complaints by two international students from Japan and Taiwan that they were sexually assaulted by another male international student.
UM’s International Student Centre Project Officer Gamal Ali Saleh Al-Mwald allegedly told one of the students to retract his police report.
However, Gamal Ali, when contacted by Malaysiakini, denied this.
UM’s International and Corporate Relations office later confirmed the complaints and said investigations were under way.
Community safety
PKAUM, in its statement today, said it was heartened that the UM management is taking the sexual assault cases seriously.
"The reputation of the university is not only measured in academic terms but also its social responsibility towards the nation, which in this case is the safety of its immediate community. 
"PKAUM urges the university’s management to pursue these two cases urgently, and that a punishment that commensurates with the severity of the crime be meted out if the perpetrator is found guilty, in order to restore public confidence that it does indeed regard such cases seriously," it said.
The association added that UM’s management could "rise to the occasion and do more".

"Aside from the urgent attention to be given to the current cases, other proactive steps to be taken are for a campaign to raise awareness of the existence of the sexual harassment policy and the mechanism for complaints among its staff and students, and for cases to be swiftly channelled to the sexual harassment committee. 
"The speed at which such cases can be investigated and dealt with depends on the resources at hand. PKAUM urges that adequate staffing be channelled to the Integrity Unit of the university that investigates ethical cases ranging from plagiarism to corruption to sexual harassment in the university," it said.
It added that PKAUM is committed to working with all quarters, including university management, to prevent a repeat of such cases being mishandled.- Mkini

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