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NUCC: New harmony bills will fight discrimination

NUCC: New harmony bills will fight discrimination
A tribunal under the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission will deal with discriminatory practices in Malaysia. - FilePIX
KUALA LUMPUR: A Muslim lady donning a head carf applies for a job at a fashion store, but the owner says ‘if you are willing to take it off then I will hire you’.

A victim of religious discrimination, where can she turn to?

According to the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), when the new National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill and National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission (NHRC) Bills are passed -- the woman can seek remedy through the NHRC.

“The lady can lodge a complaint with NHRC and first the commission will study if there is a basis for complaint. Then the complaint can either be sent for mediation or referred to the Unfair Discrimination Tribunal,” said deputy chairman of the NUCC law and policy committee Lim Chee Wee.
In mediation, the NHRC will try to convince both parties to come to a solution and if there is a settlement, the matter is closed.

“But if the fashion store owner says ‘no’, then it can be referred to the tribunal which will launch an inquiry into the complaint,” said Lim.
The tribunal has powers to reprimand, issue orders to the shopkeeper, and even impose punishments and, in serious cases, imprisonment through a High Court.

“Essentially, this prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, place of birth, descent, gender, and disabilities,” he said, adding, however, that the law would not touch guarantees such as under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

However, Lim shared with the media that one specific clause that mentions sexual orientation and identity is being hotly debated and may be dropped.

“ We might be dropping that. There has been a lot of objections … from forces that be … a few political parties,” Lim said, who declined to name them or elaborate on the grounds of their protest.

“Some segments in Malaysian society want to demonise the community,” he said, adding that the NUCC believes strongly that the section remains.

“Why is it in Malaysia, LGBT is considered a bad word?” he added, using the acronym for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Our Penal Code criminalises sodomy but it doesn’t criminalise sexual orientation,” he said.

The NHRC Bills are two of three bills to replace Sedition Act -- a law prohibiting discourse deemed as seditious.

The third proposed legislation is the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill  aimed at promoting harmony and criminalises incitement of hatred.