KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — A commotion broke between MPs during the second reading of the Sexual Harassment Bill debate today, as Teo Nie Ching (Kulai-Pakatan Harapan) accused several Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs of uttering sexist remarks in Parliament.
In reply, a Barisan Nasional MP then claimed that using expletive or vulgar words is "a bigger offence" than making sexist remarks.
"Is there any guarantee when the Sexual Harassment Bill is enacted, these MPs will no longer be able to do so? Can we refer them to the tribunal or they continue to enjoy the immunity?” she asked Dewan Rakyat.
Datuk Seri Azeez Rahim (Baling-BN) was among those listed by Teo as being guilty of this, and he retorted that he and other MPs were merely angry with Opposition MPs for calling Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun "barua" (Malay for "lackey") when they made the alleged sexist remarks against a woman MP.
"Cursing is worse than a sexist remark,” Azeez exclaimed amid a shouting match with Teo, Ramkarpal Singh (Bukit Gelugor-PH) and Kashturi Patto (Batu Kawan-PH).
Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon who chaired the proceeding subsequently reminded the MPs to remain quiet and continue the proceeding a minute later.
The Bill was read for the second time today after it was first tabled in December last year by Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Rina Harun.
The Bill creates a special tribunal, held behind closed doors, and adjudicated by experts in law and matters relating to sexual harassment with a range of remedies from monetary, apology and counselling.
Rina said today that the tabling of the Bill is also in line with: Malaysia's commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) which Putrajaya has ratified since July 1995, and also provisions under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which ensures the equality of every individual as well as rejects any form of discrimination including gender-based ones.
"The Bill would be an Act that recognises sexual harassment as a violation of human dignity, a form of gender-based discrimination and violence. It further provides for the right of redress for any person sexually harassed through the establishment of tribunals for anti-sexual harassment other than promoting awareness of sexual harassment by providing relevant provisions,” she told Dewan Rakyat.