Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Letter To The Editor – 23 April 2014
The Aiyoh… Wat Lah?! Awards is back in 2014 and the polls are now open at http://aiyohwatlah.tumblr.com/vote.
For those who aren’t familiar with Aiyoh: it is an annual spoof awards event by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) to spotlight instances of sexism, misogyny, homophobia and/or transphobia from the previous year. Although this year’s ceremony will mark the third anniversary of the Awards, the organising committee was, unfortunately, spoilt for choice when it came to shortlisting the nominees. In other words, gender inequality is alive and well, and it is rampant, so don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise.
Nominees for the Aiyoh Awards are divided into 7 categories. Each category, bar “Right on Track”, is chock-full of (sadly unsurprising) regressive statements, with women and the LGBT community bearing the brunt of the situation.
Amongst the “Policy Fail” category, the Penang state government reported stating that it would reconsider sending female athletes to the SUKMA games. This was in view of a rape which allegedly occurred at the 2013 games. In the same vein, a PAS Member of Parliament urged the government to prohibit “indecent dressing” to help overcome sexual crimes and sexual harassment.
Should they be lauded for their efforts in overcoming rape and other sexual crimes? Not quite. In fact, not at all: under the guise of benevolence, this is a classic case of victim-blaming. Let’s be real. What is it that causes rape? There’s just one factor: rapists.
Rape happens regardless of whether a woman wears a short skirt or a hijab; rape happens at home. Rather than inculcating the much needed compassion for the victims, why are public figures still encouraging the same old, tired rhetoric that instructs women, “Don’t get raped,” instead of educating the perpetrators in society, “Don’t rape”?
Another trend amongst Aiyoh 2014 nominees is unchecked homophobia and transphobia. Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi warned, “Just like drugs, a lack of awareness will cause LGBT to spread,” likening LGBT individuals to the plague.
This is not an exaggeration: UMNO delegate Abd Mutalib Abd Rahim reportedly said that “LGBT exists in the west so that people can be purged.” This statement not only equates non-heterosexual lifestyles to a disease, it also insinuates that LGBT practices are an exclusively Western phenomenon.
It is ironic really, when you consider that trans-persons have been influential figures in the Malay Archipelago. Up to the 20th century, many trans-people were esteemed local leaders, and transwomen were royal courtiers. Sorry guys, they’ve been around well before your first baby step, and they are in no way a “Western thing”.
Sure, not everybody agrees on the idea of diverse sexual orientations and identifications, but here’s something to keep in mind: some deliberately capitalise on this dissonance to gain political mileage. At the end of the day, LGBT individuals are human beings who have all the right to be treated as equals and in compliance to universal human rights standards.
Let’s not allow bigotry get the better of us. It doesn’t take a radical activist to hope and strive for a Tanah Air that is safe, compassionate and just – anyone with a shred of human decency can.
At this point, do you still believe that gender equality has long existed in Malaysia? At the 2013 Aiyoh Awards, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took the cake for “Insulting Intelligence” with the statement: “There is no need for a women’s rights movement in Malaysia because equality has been given from the start.” Is that so? If that were the case, statements from the Aiyoh nominees should not have been made in the first place.
Here’s your chance to call out the oppression that is lashed out by the ones who are supposed to protect. The Aiyoh… Wat Lah?! polls are open, so cast your votes now: http://aiyohwatlah.tumblr.com/vote
For more information, contact Kristine Yap, Advocacy Officer at Women’s Aid Organisation, at firstname.lastname@example.org