Before the political upheaval, there had been steady progress towards reforms to improve women’s rights.…
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) calls on Pakatan Harapan to ensure a minimum of 30 percent women’s representation in Cabinet and to reform laws and institutions to promote gender equality.
Pakatan Harapan had promised in their manifesto to “ensure that at least 30 percent of policy makers are women.”
Moreover, on the eve of the elections, Tun Dr Mahathir pledged to end discrimination against women.
Yet, only 20 percent of the Cabinet Ministers announced so far are women. Cabinet is the highest policy making body of the country, thus it is imperative that women have a say in Cabinet.
Women are also glaringly missing in the line ups of State EXCOs of Penang, Selangor, Johor, Melaka, and in the Sabah state cabinet. There is only one woman as representative in each of these, with the exception of the Selangor State EXCO, that has two women. That’s a mere 9 to 20 percent of women’s representation at State EXCO level.
Pakatan Harapan can still make things right at the Federal level. At least five more women need to be named for the remaining cabinet minister posts, if there are 25 ministries in total. There are a sufficient number of capable women MPs among the 21 Pakatan Harapan women MPs for their consideration.
We also urge Pakatan Harapan to ensure that at least 30 percent of Secretary-Generals and Director-Generals of ministries and government departments are women.
In addition to ensuring women’s voices are included in decision making, we must also reform laws to promote gender equality.
Pakatan Harapan had promised in their manifesto to “ensure the legal systems protect women’s legal rights and dignity”.
To that end, we recommend the following:
Firstly, enact new laws including a Gender Equality Act, Sexual Harassment Act, Domestic Workers Act, and protection against stalking.
Secondly, review existing laws to remove discriminatory provisions and enhance rights.
This includes amending the Federal Constitution to ensure mothers have equal right to confer citizenship, and adding protection against discrimination based on disability, as well as a provision on the right to privacy. And amending Islamic Family Laws to uphold justice and equality for Muslim women.
Thirdly, abolish laws that discriminate against and oppress women such as child marriage, unilateral conversion, and marital rape — and ensure that fatwas do not have the force of law.
Pakatan Harapan must also ensure that the nation has the appropriate institutions to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Women’s Ministry must focus on human rights and gender equality, and not reinforce stereotypical associations of women with family, children, and welfare. The Ministry’s authority to make decisions on women’s advancement must also be strengthened.
Schools across Malaysia must also teach human rights education and sex education that are aligned with United Nations standards.
Pakatan Harapan must also strengthen and empower government machinery and organisations responding to gender equality issues. This includes providing adequate resources to Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat, One-Stop Crisis Centres, and the PRDM Sexual Crimes Unit.
And lastly, all ministries must practice gender responsive budgeting to strengthen the government’s capacity to advance gender equality. This should include prohibitions in using public funds to perpetuate sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination.
In GE14, many women came out to vote for change, and in fact, outnumbered male voters in almost all constituencies. The new government made explicit promises to promote gender equality in its Buku Harapan, and some of these promises included addressing institutional, structural, legal, social, cultural, and religious barriers.
We now demand that the new government delivers on the change it promised.
Endorsed by the following JAG organisations:
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
- Justice for Sisters
- Perak Women for Women (PWW)
- Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
- Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
- Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)
- Sisters in Islam (SIS)
- Women’s Centre for Change (WCC Penang)