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AWL vice-president Meera Samanther notes that sexual harassment is a constant plague within the legal profession despite continuous calls for the industry to take effective and meaningful action to prevent harassment and provide lawyers with safe, conducive, and supportive working environments.
31% of respondents in the AWL Baseline Survey claimed to have experienced sexual propositions and gender-based discrimination within the legal industry. In particular, young female lawyers were most likely to be sexually propositioned by their colleagues, clients, or bosses.
Samanther also noted that the Bar Council does not mandate law firms to put mechanics in place to address sexual harassment matter at all. Due to the lack of structure and protection, many victims are forced into silence or end up being shamed for speaking up.
In some cases, lawyers who have spoken up about sexual harassment end up deciding to leave the legal practice entirely.
The AWL is calling upon the Bar Council to ensure that law firms, regardless of size, adopt workable internal policies and practices to effectively stamp out sexual harassment.
Meera also adds that continued inaction by the Bar Council will be tantamount to endorsing such continued unhealthy practices within the profession.
For now, the onus will on the Bar Council to pay attention and take action, including supporting the victim through all necessary processes, respecting confidentiality, and seeking accountability.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.