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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
(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
5. Amend the Domestic Violence Act 1994 to include non-married intimate
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
(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
ii. Create accessible pathways for government stakeholders to improve
communication and collaboration with all CSO groups, including the
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
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
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
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
iv. Establish a referral system for domestic violence at the primary
(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
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
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 &
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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