WAO: Ease the way to justice for women who suffer discrimination

WAO says the proposed gender equality bill should also provide for a special tribunal to handle cases of discrimination.

PETALING JAYA: The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has called for a guarantee of easy access to justice under a proposed gender equality law.

Speaking to FMT, WAO acting executive director Yu Ren Chung complained that women who were unfairly treated had to go through a complicated, lengthy and costly process to get justice under current laws that were supposed to protect them from discrimination.

He was responding to last week’s announcement by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim that Putrajaya was drafting a bill to address issues such as stereotyping, unequal pay and under-representation of women in leadership positions at the workplace and the larger society.

“The bill must include provisions to ensure the intent of the act is realised,” he said. “It should address issues like the adequacy of budgeting, the mainstreaming of gender in public policies and the creation of mechanisms to facilitate access to justice and remedies for women who have suffered discrimination.”

He suggested that the bill provide for a special tribunal to handle cases of discrimination as well as a gender equality commission to support the enforcement of the law.

He said the new law must prohibit gender discrimination in all fields ignored by current legislation, including the realms of health, family law and civil and political rights.

He added that women in the private sector were currently not protected from discrimination as the courts had been interpreting constitutional guarantees of equality too narrowly.

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto of DAP meanwhile questioned what model Putrajaya was looking at in drafting the bill.

“I’m not sure what’s in the bill because opposition MPs have not been consulted,” she said. “Usually, we are briefed before an act is tabled, but it’s more vital for us to give our input when it is being drafted rather than after.

“It is important to see which country we’re modelling our bill after. We have to benchmark ourselves against high standards.”

She said legislation alone would not be enough to address the issue of inequality, adding that there must be efforts to educate Malaysians to see human beings as equal to one another.

“We live in a society which can be quite discriminatory,” she said. “People are discriminated against based on the colour of their skin, gender, and sexual orientation.

“In Penang, we have the Penang Women’s Development Corporation, which organises programmes to help people understand gender equality better.”

Putrajaya to draft bill on gender equality