Enact laws on gender equality, Suhakam urges Putrajaya

Women take part in an International Women’s Day gathering organised by the Seputeh residents’ representative council in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) today pushed for Malaysia to enact laws that formally recognise gender equality, noting that women are still being paid less than men, as it observed International Women’s Day.

Citing figures provided by the Department of Statistics, Suhakam said that on average, a woman earns RM9.32 for every RM10 earned by a man.

This is despite women outperforming men at every level in primary, secondary and higher education and are almost at par with men in terms of literacy.

However, it said, only 55.2% of women take part in the workforce compared to 80.4% of men, and occupy 33% of management and senior positions, although this is higher than the global average of 29%.

In terms of political empowerment, it said, only 14.4% of MPs elected are women.

“Having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1995, Malaysia has the obligation to enact laws that formally recognise gender equality and criminalise sexual harassment,” it said in a statement.

Suhakam said it has been actively involved in the formulation of the Sexual Harassment Bill and Anti-Discrimination against Women Bill, intended to recognise and bridge gaps concerning discrimination against women.

In a separate statement, DAP’s Charles Santiago felt the country is “trailing behind” when it comes to treating its women and girls.

“We just need to look at the lack of institutionalised support for poor women, indigenous women, single mothers and single mothers with cancer, and HIV positive plus refugee women to understand how badly we have failed all women who are in need of empowerment and assistance,” the Klang MP said.

Santiago, however, took comfort that Pakatan Harapan was seriously looking at some pertinent issues pushed for by women’s rights activists and groups, including trade unions

He said the Sexual Harassment Act and anti-stalking laws were scheduled to be tabled in the new meeting of Parliament, although he expressed fear it would not happen due to the change in government.

Real progress, he said, has been slow for women in Malaysia and in particular for those from the B40 economic rung and other disenfranchised communities.

“Empowering these women is key to sustainable development as poverty and gender equality are intrinsically linked,” he said.