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2c: Women


Preamble

This proposal addresses the challenges that are faced by women in Malaysia

regardless of whether their allegiance to the country is by birth or by marriage.

Opportunities for women empowerment are inadequate in terms of legislation

and constitutional reform to address gender equality in the public and private

spheres.

The biggest challenge that women face in Malaysia is the patriarchal cultural

narrative that limits opportunities for girls and women in the workplace, and

political participation, as well as sidelines the needs of women and girls in

healthcare and safety against gender-based violence. As most policies are made by

men of the same age group, i.e. above 50 years old, we see the disparity of

regulations that protect women and the lack of discourse in making decisions to

empower women.

The proposal addresses the main corners where women are below the Malaysia

Gender Gap Index, in areas concerning economic participation and opportunity,

health and survival and political empowerment. The proposal will address these

areas under the following themes: domestic violence, sexual and gender-based

violence; systemic and comprehensive healthcare for women; women’s

participation in politics and public life, including national machinery and policies

for advancement of women; and child/underage marriage.

When the population of women in Malaysia is almost at 50%, according to 2020

official statistics, it is in the duty and interest of the decision makers to be gender

inclusive to increase women in decision-making levels to address the other gaps

for women and eliminate the current culture of associating and upholding

traditional gender roles.


I: Constitutional & Legislative Reform


Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of

Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Apart from some remaining

reservations, the government has pledged commitment to acknowledge and

adhere to the Convention’s Articles, in order to safeguard women’s rights.

However, as CEDAW has yet to be fully incorporated into the national legal

system, its provisions are not enforceable in national courts. There is concern

that there is no legal definition of “respect for human rights”, and the

rule of law is regarded as the core objective in this policy area. Proposals relating

to deaths in custody, torture, the death penalty and oppressive laws are

symptoms within a broader institutional framework which fails to recognise the

inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of the People. Reforming the

prison system, drug policies and legal aid, as delineated below, are some structural

attempts towards creating a more just society. To safeguard human rights, and to

establish accountability of government leaders wielding public power, Malaysia

must function within a system of certain and foreseeable law, where everyone has

the right to be treated by all decision-makers with dignity, equality and rationality

and in accordance with the laws, and to have the opportunity to challenge

decisions before independent and impartial courts through fair procedures.

Although the basic concept of equality before the law and equal protection of the

law is provided for in the Federal Constitution, there is no practical obligation on

the government to ensure that this principle is realised. Article 1 of CEDAW

addresses discrimination, yet the courts give a narrow interpretation of the

prohibition of gender-based discrimination under Article 8 (2) of the Federal

Constitution, restricting it to acts committed by the authorities and not protecting

women against discrimination by private actors, such as private employers. The

provisions of CEDAW thus need to be incorporated into the domestic legal

system and a CEDAW-compliant gender equality law needs to be enacted.

1. Introduce anti-stalking laws.

(Rusni Tajari, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Proposal 2C-1)

A 2020 study by WAO and market researcher Vase.ai found that over a third of

Malaysians have experienced stalking that caused them to feel fear. In Malaysia,

stalking is not yet recognised as a crime, and there is no legal provision for

stalking survivors to get protection and restraining orders. There is an existing

comprehensive push to make stalking a crime in Malaysia, and work on amending

the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code started in 2020, but more needs to

be done to expedite the process.

i. Enact anti-stalking offence in the Penal Code to define and criminalise

stalking.

ii. Introduce a restraining order on stalkers in the Criminal Procedure Code

and make protection available to survivors

2. Amend the Employment Act 1955 to comply with the ILO and CEDAW

Concluding Observations

The Employment Act 1955 must be in compliance with the International Labour

Organization (ILO) Convention 100 and the CEDAW Concluding Observations

of Malaysia in 2018 to reduce the gender gap. Efforts must be made to foster a

more gender equal workplace and encourage fathers and mothers to equally share

in care and domestic responsibilities.

i. Introduce at least seven work days paternity leave in the private sector.

ii. Extend paid maternity leave in the private sector from 60 days to 90.

iii. Introduce prohibitions against discrimination based on gender, religion,

race and disability status for employees and job seekers.

iv. Introduce the right to request for flexible working hours and be

protected from discrimination that may arise as a consequence of doing

so.

v. Strengthen protection against sexual harassment in the Employment Act,

in addition to passing an independent sexual harassment act.

vi. Officially define discrimination to cover direct and indirect forms.

vii. Include positive duties for employers, including but not limited to:

awareness-raising efforts and preventive measures to eliminate gender

stereotyping and gender ideologies at the workplace; provision of day

care facilities; transportation for night work; programmes for re-entry

after childbirth; access to facilities and reasonable accommodations for

persons with disabilities; and temporary special measures to give an

advantage to workers on the basis of gender, disability, or minority or

other disadvantaged status.

viii. Introduce the principles of equal pay for work of equal value and equal

opportunity for promotion as provided for in the ILO Convention 100.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-2)

ix. Give parents an option to extend paternity leave up to six months.

(Badlishah Sham Baharin, GBM/IKRAM, Proposal 2C-3)

x. Streamline the Labour Ordinance of Sabah (Sabah Cap. 67) and the

Labour Ordinance of Sarawak to have the same provisions as the

Employment Act and the suggested amendments as per above.

3. Immediately table and enact the Sexual Harassment Bill.

Existing laws or prohibitions regarding sexual harassment in the Employment

Act and the Code of Practice do not sufficiently address sexual harassment in all

contexts. A new law is needed to do the following:

i. Comprehensively define sexual harassment (direct and indirect).

ii. Expand protections against sexual harassment, and create standards for

all organisations and settings.

iii. Create an oversight mechanism and tribunal to offer redress that is less

expensive and burdensome than going through the civil court.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-4)

iv. Make it a requirement for all public and private institutions to set up an

internal special committee to handle reported cases within the

organisation.

(Roohaida Othman, IKRAM, Proposal 2C-5)

To promote understanding and gain support for the law, a public awareness

campaign on sexual harassment must be conducted at all levels. In schools, it

should be done in all languages used in Malaysia, including Bahasa Isyarat

Malaysia (BIM).

(Roohaida Othman, IKRAM, Proposal 2C-5)

4. Set a timeline to finalise and table the Gender Equality Bill.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-6)

A Gender Equality law has not been enacted despite the recommendation by the

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in its

Concluding Observations in 2006. Work on drafting the law began in 2019 but

has since stalled.


II: Domestic Violence & Sexual Gender-based Violence


Domestic and sexual violence against women and children, already a grave

concern in Malaysia, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and

movement restrictions. The number of cases reported is merely the tip of the

iceberg due to underreporting. The situation is made worse for women who

experience discrimination on the grounds of their disability, age, citizenship

status and sexual orientation, among others. The marginalisation of women and

girls with disabilities is compounded by disability-related factors, such as the need

for physical care and support, and limitations in communication with possible

sources of help in the case of those who are deaf, blind, have learning or physical

disabilities, or both.

Beyond the private sphere of the home, these problems also transpire in the

workplace, hence the Employment Act should provide for adequate safeguard

measures to protect vulnerable groups.

Victims of domestic and sexual violence face various barriers accessing justice.

Despite the existence of legislation that protects them, they are often unaware of

their rights and poorly informed of the procedures to accessing justice. Even

where the crimes are reported, the cases are poorly handled by the government

agencies involved, which tend to work in silos and lack sensitivity when handling

victims.

5. Amend the Domestic Violence Act 1994 to include non-married intimate

partners.

6. Criminalise marital rape.

7. Amend Section 375 on the Penal Code to be gender neutral and to

provide comprehensive protection against all form of sexual violence.

8. Ensure more governmental consultation and dialogues with women and

children non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on sexual and

gender-based violence.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-7)

i. Create diverse and meaningful public engagement and consultation to

ensure full participation of all persons, including persons with

disabilities.

ii. Create accessible pathways for government stakeholders to improve

communication and collaboration with all CSO groups, including the

disabled community.

9. Adopt evidence- and rights-based policy and legislation.

10. Allocate annual grants for CSOs that are providing critical services on

the ground for women and children.

Be more proactive in meeting the needs of women and children with disabilities

by way of providing encouragement and incentives to these CSOs.

11. Ensure that women and girls with disabilities have equitable access to

protection from all forms of violence on a par with non-disabled women

and girls.

12. Train government agencies to be more sensitive and professional when

interacting with victim-survivors.

Collaborate with women’s rights CSOs who work with victim-survivors, with

attention given to women and girls with disabilities.

13. Collaborate with women’s rights CSOs to raise awareness.

Include awareness of diverse groups, including women and girls with disabilities.

14. Government agencies should work in an integrated manner to ensure

the seamless provision of support for victim-survivors to access their

rights.

Include SOPs for provision of BIM interpreting throughout the support process

and for supporting blind victims, victims with learning disabilities, victims with

physical disabilities and victims with multiple disabilities.

15. Develop a public, comprehensive data collection system which

includes CSO data.

(Karen Lai, Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Proposal 2C-8)

16. Increase the number of permanent officers within the Social Welfare

Department to manage cases.

17. Increase the number of shelter homes nationwide.

18. Organise a campaign to stop domestic violence in all settings.

(Badlishah Sham Baharin, GBM/IKRAM, Proposal 2C-9)

19. Increase the training budget to improve police services pertaining to

the management and treatment of women who come forward to report

crime and those who are placed in custody.

Address the treatment of women in police custody in the proposed IPCMC, the

formation of which has been long demanded by civil society.

20. Uphold and protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

Tackle discrimination and/or any form of exclusion, oppression or injustice that

undermines, in any way, the health, well-being and advancement of women and

girls with disabilities.


III: Systematic & Comprehensive Healthcare for Women


Currently, there is no systematic response mechanism to address domestic

violence at the primary healthcare level. Consequently, many survivors who seek

care at primary healthcare centres do not receive adequate support.

21. Institute a systematic healthcare response to domestic violence or

gender-based violence.

i. Make information on domestic violence easily accessible and available in

multiple languages and formats, including audio format, in the waiting

rooms and washrooms of Klinik Kesihatan venues and hospitals.

ii. Require healthcare providers to inquire about the possibility of having

experienced domestic violence, when patients present with identifiable

symptoms or clinical conditions associated with domestic violence.

iii. Train healthcare providers to recognise, respond to and refer cases of

domestic violence in an appropriate and sensitive manner, including

cases involving women and girls with disabilities who might have specific

communication needs.

iv. Establish a referral system for domestic violence at the primary

healthcare level.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-10)

22. Empower and expand the services of the One Stop Crisis Centre

(OSCC) model in hospitals to local health clinics.

Ensure a victim-survivor-centred response, such as making available BIM

interpretation if needed and information in diverse formats, including Braille and

audio for blind persons, and translation services.

23. Ensure that women and girls with disabilities have access to sexual

and reproductive health knowledge and services, on an equitable basis

with their peers.

The information must be available in formats and languages that they can

understand.

24. Address period poverty by recognising and supporting the bodily

autonomy and integrity of women and girls.

i. Provide women and girls with access to information and services on

sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including information on

female hygiene.

ii. Improve the infrastructure for female hygiene management in public

areas including schools to create a safe and clean environment for

women and girls.

iii. Make feminine hygiene products economically accessible.

iv. To enable effective action, gather gender-disaggregated data to identify

groups of women and girls who suffer from period poverty by location,

demographics, community groups etc.

v. Ensure that women and girls can make informed decisions about their

bodies, and prohibit non-consensual medical intervention or procedures

on bodies of women and girls.


IV: Women’s Political Participation in Political &

Public Life


Women make up almost half the population but only hold 14.9% representation

in the Dewan Rakyat. Too few women are in leadership and law-making roles,

compared with men. It is important to institutionalise women participation in

political and public life.

25. Develop a strategy to implement and institutionalise a 30% minimum

quota for diverse women representation in state- and federal-level

decision-making bodies, including the legislature and in the private

sector.

26. Parliament and state legislature rules should implement a zero-

tolerance policy on gender-based violence and discrimination.


(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-11)

27. Actively enable and support marginalised women, namely women and

girls with disabilities, in participating in political and public life.

i. Empower women to hold positions of responsibility, with influence or

decision-making authority, in women’s organisations and in the entities

of any sector (e.g., as local councillors, senators, ministers, board

members, senior executives, managers and advisers). and facilitate the

active participation of women and girls with diverse disabilities in

decision-making bodies in all sectors.

ii. Adopt the principle of reasonable accommodation to ensure that they

have equitable access to mainstream development opportunities in

general.

iii. Support and facilitate their participation in, and completion, of

programmes on literacy, economic empowerment, social progress,

culture and sports, and leadership development. This includes

programmes and projects under the auspices of the United Nations

Country Team.

iv. Actively enable and support them to participate in, and fully complete,

any internship, apprenticeship, coaching, mentoring and job coach

programmes over the course of each calendar year.

v. Initiate and carry through the implementation of policy and programme

measures that specifically foster capability development (including any

type of language, literacy, leadership, facilitation, negotiation, strategic

advocacy, public speaking and self-empowerment skills development),

whose target beneficiaries include women and girls with disabilities.


V: National Machinery & Policies for Advancement of Women


In the 26 years since Malaysia has ratified CEDAW, the government has

produced only two periodic reports and reviews; for the UN Convention on the

Rights of the Child (UNCRC), there has been only one report and review over

the same period; and for the Convention on the Rights of Persons With

Disabilities (CRPD), there has been no report or review in the 11 years since it

was ratified. Without any monitoring mechanisms, Malaysia will not be able to

identify and address the needs that are mandated in the Convention. This will

affect Malaysia’s progress in instilling policies that promote advancement of

women into the national machinery.

28. Incorporate gender equality mainstreaming and gender-responsive

budgeting at all levels of government.

i. Institute gender mainstreaming and gender-responsive budgeting into

the Twelfth Malaysia Plan and national fiscal policies.

ii. Incorporate gender responsive-budgeting in economic recovery packages

to identify the gendered impacts of the pandemic for targeted and

impactful interventions.

29. Roll out the National Women’s Policy and Women Development

Action Plan for 2021–2030.

(Rusni Tajari, WAO, Proposal 2C-12)

The policy, which will provide a structure and directive for all stakeholders of the

women’s rights movement to play their role in working together with the

government to empower women in Malaysia by providing a safe, lucrative life

with equitable and substantive opportunities. The action plan should have an

intersectional approach that includes the following actions:

i. Ensure systematic collection and dissemination of gender-disaggregated

and disability status data to implement effective and evidence-based

policies.

ii. Undertake regular gender training across government ministries, with

attention to gender-disability intersectionality.

iii. Set up a multi-ministerial committee and build their capacity to

understand their obligations under the ratified treaties.

iv. Through the same multi-sectoral committee, develop plans to implement

the concluding observations of the treaty bodies.

v. Incorporate international obligations and set up a one-stop centre to

compile human rights data into Malaysia’s five-year development plans

that should take into account the principles laid down in the Sustainable

Development Goals pertaining to promoting gender equality and

empowerment of women and children.

vi. Eliminate all gender discrimination in law.

vii. Lift all reservations to CEDAW.

viii. Ensure that women’s rights are represented in the discussion and

implementation of the national agenda on climate change.

ix. Recognise the multiple discriminations faced by women and girls with

disabilities due to gender-disability intersectionality, which are

compounded by poverty in many cases.

x. Facilitate the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities, including via

reasonable accommodation and active support for their leadership in

policies, programmes and projects, on an equal basis with non-disabled

women and girls.


VI: Women (& Men) In Malaysian Binational Marriages


As a result of gender-discriminatory citizenship laws, Malaysian women did not

have equal rights to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children by

“operation of law”; instead, they had to go through a process fraught with delays,

repeated rejections without reasons and no guarantee of approval. It took the

persistence of several women’s rights activists to pursue the issue in the courts

before the breakthrough came on 9 September 2021, when the High Court

granted Malaysian women equal rights to confer automatic citizenship on their

overseas-born children. Although the government is appealing the decision, its

motion to stay the application was dismissed on 22 December, which means

affected children can now obtain citizenship-related documents. At the time of

writing, it is understood that the Court of Appeal would still hear the

Government’s appeal on March 23, 2022.

Foreign spouses of Malaysian men also face compromised autonomy in the

private and public spheres, and are affected economically due to restrictions on

their right to work, lack of access to permanent residence and heightened

uncertainty of legal status in case of divorce or demise of the Malaysian spouse.

There is an increased risk of domestic violence while they are made to be wholly

dependent on the Malaysian spouse for their legal and economic status in the

country.

30. Review citizenship laws, immigration policies and practices that

obstruct or impede gender equality and equal rights for women.

(Melinda Anne Sharlini & Bina Ramanand, Family Frontiers,
Proposals 2C-13 & 2C-14)

i. Withdraw the appeal against the 9 September 2021 High Court decision.

ii. As announced by the Minister of Home Affairs in Parliament on 8

November 2021, and the Law Minister on 15 November, the

Government should amend Article 14(1)(b) read with Section 1(b), Part

II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution (in accordance

with Article 8(2)) to ensure Malaysian mothers can confer their

citizenship by operation of law on an equal basis as Malaysian fathers on

their children born overseas.

iii. Amend the Federal Constitution (in accordance with Article 8(2)) to

ensure that non-citizen spouses of Malaysian women are entitled to

citizenship by registration, similar to non-citizen spouses of Malaysian

men.

iv. Amend the Federal Constitution (in accordance with Article 161A(6)(b))

to ensure that a person will be considered a native of Sabah if they were

born in Sabah or born to a parent domiciled in Sabah at the time of the

birth, not just the father, in the spirit of Article 8(2) on gender equality.

v. Withdraw reservations to Article 9(2) of CEDAW.

vi. Remove the statement of prohibition of employment attached to the

Long-Term Social Visit Pass of non-citizen spouses, and the requirement

to obtain approval to work from the Immigration department.

vii. Allow non-citizen spouses of Malaysians:

a) to renew their visa without the presence of their spouse;

b) equal rights to work–ensure mandatory employers’ EPF

contributions are available to working non-citizen spouses, and

ensure they have full benefits under SOCSO; and

c) equal rights to economic and social services such as opening

individual bank accounts, purchasing affordable housing without

being subjected to foreign investment directives, and

contributing to national funds.

viii. Allow separated, divorced and widowed spouses to:

a) access permanent residence if they have Malaysian children, and

allow them to renew their legal status without the presence of

the Malaysian spouse; and

b) reside and work permanently and independently of the

Malaysian spouse, taking into account the best interest of the

children and the family unit.


VII: Child/Underage Marriage


31. Set a firm minimum age limit for marriage across all laws (civil,

syariah, native) with no exceptions.

32. Revisit the Women Development Action Plan to address child

marriage.

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