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GE15 candidates show an alarming lack of women’s representation

Press Statement – For Immediate Publication

Kuala Lumpur, 4 November 2022

GE15 candidates show an alarming lack of women’s representation

As parties announce seats ahead of nomination day, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is
deeply concerned that there are less than 30% women candidates in GE15. This signals a
dangerous lack of women’s representation in parliament, and will almost certainly set back
any policy for gender equality that the government and state is committed to through
accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW).

Women are 50% of the electorate; therefore, equal representation of women is a matter of
democracy. It is worrying that key political leaders have defended the decision to field fewer women candidates, insisting that “the party’s struggle is above the gender agenda”. Callous responses such as these are a clear indicator that despite claims to the contrary, women’s empowerment was not on the agenda, and there was very little meaningful effort made to achieve 30% political representation for women.

Failure to ensure equal representation for women is not political strategy, it is misogyny. Parliamentary candidates must be elected not just to hold power but also to impact positive change for their constituents. Research shows that having more women leaders led to more participatory- and consensus-based decision-making, as well as greater attention to issues affecting families. Male candidates who do advocate for issues relating to women and children are still far less likely to prioritise them. Increasing the numbers of women in government leadership positions is likely to improve the democratic process and diversify decision-making perspectives while benefiting everyone.

Do parties realise that the decision to field fewer women candidates contradicts the state’s
international obligations?

It sets us back from achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 – to ensure women’s
full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in public life. Malaysia is also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which states in Article 7 that the government “shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right … to participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government.” Without acknowledging and resolving fully the gender imbalance in GE15, Malaysia is taking a step backwards.

This must be rectified immediately. Women are not second-class citizens in Malaysia and to ensure this, WAO through its WAO Manifesto demands that all political actors:

1. Commit to upholding gender equality and non- discrimination in the constitution.

2. Commit to ending violence against women and girls.

3. Ensure women’s equal participation and representation in all sectors of public life.

4. Commit to a secure economic future for all women to thrive with dignity.

All political actors must be clear and vocal about their pledge to support gender equality and implement it in their policies. We need equal representation to ensure the well-being and uplifting of families and generations to come.

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