KOTA KINABALU: The inaugural Woman’s Day rally to promote gender equality and condemn violence drew some 80 marchers, including some from the LGBT community, here today.
The march was organised by activists, artists and volunteers from several movements, including the Society for Equality, Respect and Trust for All Sabah (Serata), Bentarakata and Borneo Komrad.
The participants carried placards condemning child marriage, discrimination against women, and violence against the LGBT community, reading “Gender equality now”, “No means no”, “Tolak eksploitasi perempuan stateless” (Reject exploitation of stateless women) and “Feminism is for everyone”.
Organising spokesperson Ana Jonessy said they were happy with the turnout as it still exceeded their expectations.
“Our eight demands include a ban on child marriages and an end to all violence based on gender and sexual orientation.
“We want sex education be made compulsory at all educational institutions and workplaces.
“We also want safe public spaces, at work and at home, where we can be what we want to be and what we need to be,” she said.
Jonessy said women needed help to report sexual harassment at work and outside of work so that action can be taken.
“At the moment, no one really knows what to do when one gets harassed, such as who to report to and whether action can be taken against the perpetrator,” she said.
She rejected suggestions that peaceful assemblies or the LGBT movement were part of Western culture.
She said Malaysia had prominent feminists like Siti Wan Kembang in Kelantan and Shamsiah Fakeh, who headed Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Awas), the women’s movement of the left-wing Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM).
Sabah Bersih 2.0 vice-chairman Beverly Joeman believed that peaceful gatherings like the one organised today should be held more often.
She urged the authorities to gazette a public space for such gatherings.
LGBT activist Harjinder Kler said Malaysian society should be more open about the LGBT community and not pretend that they did not exist.
“Let us be who we are. We just want to be accepted. We are human beings, too,” she said.