A target of obscene and intimidatory calls more than three weeks ago since December 19 last year, Teresa Kok found that for three weeks the police could not even begin to start investigations into her police report because her case had been classified under Section 509 of the Penal Code on "Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman".
The classification of Teresa’s case under Section 509 of the Penal Code is most disputable, as it should be classified under Section 503 on "Criminal intimidation", as she had been threatened with bodily harm. Under this section, a person guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation is liable to be punished for a jail sentence up to two years or with fine or both.
By classifying Teresa’s case under Section 509 which categorises it as a non-seizable offence, there is not only a lighter sentence of a maximum of one year jail or fine or both, the police could not initiate investigations without an order from the Public Prosecutor.
This is one of the outmoded, sexist and ancient laws which must be amended immediately at the next Parliamentary meeting beginning on February 14, 2000, for though purporting to protect women from sexual harassment, it was actually protecting men!
This provision was formulated about a century ago when law-makers were more concerned about how to protect men from women for making friovolous or baseless accusations of sexual harassment, rather than to protect women from sexual harassment from men!
The 20 women MPs from all political parties in the new Parliament should form an immediate Women MPs’ caucus to work out a strategy to remove the highly offensive, sexist and ridiculous provisions in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code which protect men rather than women in sexual harassment cases.
Section 509 of the Penal Codes reads: "Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both".
Under the Criminal Procedure Code, an order from the Public Prosecutor is required before the police can initiate investigations under Section 509 of the Penal Code hampering protection for women and police investigation into sexual harassment cases.
If there are 1,000 reports under Section 509 of the Penal Code, is the Public Prosecutor going to plough through the 1,000 reports before issuing the necessary orders to the police to initiate investigations - with the police in the meantime completely helpless to provide protection for women victims of sexual harassment?