Talk show insults highlight need for more protection

Nurul Izzah Anwar at the Facebook Live talk show.

I read with great disgust and anger that a man was so brazen, with such total absence of civility, to call into a live talk show and “advise” Nurul Izzah about her dressing.

The way a woman chooses to dress is none of anybody’s business. It is from a total lack of respect for women that such a regrettable incident can occur.

Whoever this “Azrul” is, please apologise to YB Nurul as what you did is totally uncalled for. Nothing short of a public apology is acceptable.

On the same note, this is also a wake-up call for Malaysia to take gender equality issues seriously, and not just to play lip service.

Women are still being objectified as we see from advertisements and social media posts glorifying a woman’s body form rather than her intellect, leadership and hard work. Their prowess and contributions are many times being down-played and their control over their lives and reproductive choices are being thwarted by parochial stone age attitudes, value judgments, false religious beliefs and general malaise, such that women’s rights are always on the back burner.

Malaysia signed the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in 1995, joining the global community of nations in agreeing to protect women’s rights and achieve gender equality.

The government is obliged to amend or change its legal and policy framework as well as to continue all other efforts in achieving CEDAW’s objectives. There was regrettably scanty political will or meaningful changes in practice resulting in many areas where women are still being discriminated.

Even the 4-year report to the CEDAW committee, which every nation ratifying the Convention needs to submit, was made on time by Malaysia resulting in the first report in 2006 after 11 years and the second report this year in 2018 after another 12 year gap.

Malaysia’s report this year to the United Nation’s committee was regrettably disappointing with the country unable to offer principled responses to many enquiries posed by the committee indicating a severe lack of progress in achieving gender equality.

Many questions remain after the review, with no real answers in sight, such as: When will stalking in real life and online or at a live talk show be made illegal? When will marital rape be criminalised or a Sexual Harassment Act be enacted? What steps will be taken for better treatment of refugees and foreign spouses? How will Malaysia stop attacks against persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expressions? And how about basic reproductive rights of women being denied based on religious beliefs?

I am hopeful that now with the Pakatan Harapan government installed and Malaysia moving into a brand new era, that women’s rights can be brought to the forefront of the national consciousness.

National policy and the legal framework can be changed to achieve complete gender equality. Women and children are the pillars of our society and the foundation upon which a nation is built.

A country and nation is judged on how women and children, our most precious assets, are treated. I am sad that Malaysia’s performance has been at best dismal. I am certain that it will only get better from now on as young women leaders like Nurul Izzah and team take centre stage.

John Teo is an FMT reader.

The views expressed of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.