KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — A women’s rights group today criticised the government and the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress’ (MTUC) decision to abstain from supporting an international treaty on harassment at work.
The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) said that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) treaty in Geneva, which addresses sexual harassment in the workplace, was a step towards making workplaces more accessible for women.
“Ensuring that women feel welcome and safe at the workplace is a serious concern — not only from an economic point of view but also to ensure that women earn a living wage and are able to make financial decisions independently.
“There is no point in creating a quota or opportunities for women if basic requirements like a violence-free and harassment-free workplace are not realised,” the statement read.
Awam added that a proper and comprehensive sexual harassment policy at the workplace would set the foundation for better working environments and working relationships while improving productivity.
The group thus said it was extremely disappointed with the decision by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and MTUC to abstain from voting for the treaty that incorporated principles from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw).
It then cited International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde’s remark during her visit last week, where she highlighted increasing Malaysia’s productivity and focus on creating opportunities for women while maintaining the push for women empowerment.
“Malaysia Bahru means hope for the rakyat and it is time we viewed these opportunities for progress with the bigger picture in mind, rather than focusing on making a minority group the scapegoat for not moving forward,” the group added.
Last Friday, ILO member governments, worker representatives, and employers’ organisations adopted a new treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace after spending two years negotiating the text.
The treaty aims to protect workers, regardless of contractual status, from harassment in places where they are paid, taking a rest, eating or using sanitary facilities.
It also covers work-related trips, training, social activities, communications and commutes.
All but six governments voted in favour of the pact, with Russia, Singapore, El Salvador, Malaysia, Paraguay and Kyrgyzstan abstaining.