Use our report as guide to improve women’s rights, activists tell Putrajaya

Representatives from WAO and JAG at the launch of the ‘Status of Women’s Human Rights: 24 Years of Cedaw in Malaysia’ report in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Two women’s rights groups have urged Putrajaya to view positively a report it prepared on the rights of women in Malaysia, saying it would help guide the government in addressing gaps to women’s human rights.

The report entitled “Status of Women’s Human Rights: 24 Years of Cedaw in Malaysia” was coordinated by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

“It is tremendous work done to help the government,” said former United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) committee member Shanthi Dairiam.

“Putrajaya should look at it positively, and that it is helpful, then I think dialogue with the government will be useful without feeling resentful,” she said at the launch of the report today.

Malaysia had acceded to the UN Cedaw in 1995. As a signatory, Malaysia is reviewed by the UN every four years. NGOs can take part in the review process by submitting reports on the government’s compliance with Cedaw.

The government submitted its Third through Fifth Periodic Report to the Cedaw Committee in September 2017.

Shanthi Dairiam

The report said although there were positive changes in law and policy, there was no substantive shift in the status of women and the enjoyment of human rights they were entitled to.

Shanthi, a member of WAO’s executive committee, said there were some encouraging signs on the issue of political will in the country to bring about transformation in gender equality.

But she said there were currently inadequacies within the Federal Constitution when it came to gender equality.

She cited provisions in Article 8 of the constitution on equality under the law.

V Sumitra

“It is a declaratory statement. It does not go beyond that. It does not say how we will become equal, what are the conditions in which equality will take place,” she said.

Shanti said it was time to enact a Gender Equality Act.

“The act is not in conflict with the Federal Constitution because it is promoting equality.

“We need to expedite the enactment of the gender equality law, and include the definition of discrimination,” she said.

Meanwhile, WAO executive director V Sumitra said they had been advocating for the act as a coalition and individually as organisations.

“There has been some momentum as a result of advocacy and lobbying,” she said.

Sumitra said she hoped the act could take effect in 2020.