(Statement in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2021)
by Chong Yee Shan
It’s been one year since Perikatan Nasional (PN) formed a government. Under their governance, we see many incompetent ministries failing to provide adequate policies and enforcement on many issues, especially gender. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) would like to suggest, Wait No More, Act Now! We have listed the following recommendations:
Enact Sexual Harassment Act
Given the rise in the community on the awareness of acknowledging the signs of sexual harassment either verbally, visually, physically or communicated in writing or electronically, the current laws and policies that sets out to protect women and sexual minorities are not enough. Existing sexual harassment provision, such as in the Employment Act, is disappointingly enforced and fails to create a safer work environment for women and other minority groups. Therefore, it is crucial to have more gender-sensitive training for all authorities, stakeholders, and medical practitioners to ensure potent enforcement focus on the patriarchal system and its impact on both men and women. The awareness of the maintenance of power and privilege by the dominant group need to be highlighted so that there will be a collaboration of forces to dismantle the dysfunctional system of gender inequality. The Sexual Harassment Act is necessary to protect all genders and sexual minorities and hold the responsible parties accountable.
End Child Marriage
Research shows that child marriage is intimately connected to poverty and is most common in the world’s poorest countries. Although Malaysia is a developing country, child marriages’ presence reflects the lack of attention paid to the impact of low socio-economic status on social issues. Lack of sex education, awareness of children giving consent and perceived messages of one’s cultural system are some examples that perpetuate the issue of child marriages and firmly embedded in the disparity of socio-economic level. When financial resources are limited in a family, child marriages are seen as a way for daughters to be taken care of by another family. Evidence shows that girls who marry off young are more likely to be poor and remain low, especially when traditional gender roles expected to be maintained. Malaysia has ratified the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which meant to protect children and girls from child marriages; the government should develop policies in Malaysia to meet the guidelines of CEDAW and CRC.
Universal Basic Income (UBI)
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many B40 women, especially single mothers, who are the sole providers in the family. The government’s lack of support is evident through the stories of many who are suffering from the loss of income. The PN government have been spending money on efforts to boost the economy. However, there is a lack of attention to significantly impacted economically. This issue can be addressed by government response to provide a modified Universal Basic Income (UBI) to anyone who does not currently have a source of income. This to ensure that everyone in this country is fed and all basic needs are met. Women and girls must be included in any decision-making process as well in all future economic policies. In the longer term, the government must ensure to drive a transformative change in addressing the care work, paid and unpaid. Furthermore, the government must target women and girls to address the socio-economic impact with a gender lens so that women can achieve greater equality and social protection.
Human Rights of LGBTQI Persons
Discrimination, violation, and witch-hunts toward LGBTQI persons have become more severe in Malaysia. The government’s anti-LGBTQI position shows in politicians scapegoating LGBTQI persons, government appearing lax with conservative groups, anti-LGBT speech and acts, directly causing an increase in violation and hate speech towards LGBTQI persons. Past one year, the witch-hunting of the LGBTQI community from various actors and authorities have increased. The LGBTQI community are living in fear, and they are left in a very vulnerable situation. The government should lead by example, stop all form of hate speech and targeting LGBTQI persons, and necessary steps to protect anyone that threatens to harm LGBTQI person immediately.
For too long, women have been ignored, and those in power, mostly that controlled by men, refused to use a gender lens to see the issues. We hope women’s struggle for equality has triggered people’s realisation to build a movement towards greater gender equality and end gender stereotypes, sexism, and the patriarchal system. We must fight for the traditional gender roles to be erased from the state’s eye to society. This is not the 18th century for men to enjoy their patriarchal “privileges” anymore and time to share the same and shared parental and domestic responsibilities.
Chong Yee Shan is a member of the Central Committee of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and PSM’s Gender Bureau coordinator.