Improve gender equality, JAG tells Pakatan government

In a statement today, the coalition called upon the new Pakatan Harapan government to launch institutional reforms aimed at advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. — Reuters pic
In a statement today, the coalition called upon the new Pakatan Harapan government to launch institutional reforms aimed at advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. — Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, May 22—The Women and Family Development ministry must focus on human rights and gender equality, instead of merely reinforcing stereotypical associations of women with family, children, and welfare, says Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

In a statement today, the coalition called upon the new Pakatan Harapan government to launch institutional reforms aimed at advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

These reforms, said the coalition, should include strengthening the ministry’s authority to make decisions on women’s advancement.

“Pakatan Harapan must also strengthen and empower government machinery and organisations responding to gender equality issues,” it said.

“This includes providing adequate resources to the Welfare department, One-Stop Crisis Centres, and the Royal Malaysian Police Sexual Crimes Unit.”

Touching on education, JAG asserted that Malaysian schools needed to implement human rights and sex education that were in line with the United Nations’ standards.

It also highlighted the need for gender-responsive budgeting, which would augment the advancement of gender equality.

“This should include prohibitions in using public funds to perpetuate sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination.

JAG also called upon PH to institute law reforms in a similar vein by enacting new laws and reviewing existing laws to enhance women’s rights.

Among the new laws it suggested included a Gender Equality Act, Sexual Harassment Act, Domestic Workers Act, and protection against stalking.

“Laws that discriminate against and oppress women like child marriage, unilateral conversion, and marital rape must be abolished.

“PH should also amend the Federal Constitution to  ensure mothers have equal right to confer citizenship, and add protection against discrimination based on disability.

“Islamic family laws must also be amended to uphold justice and equality for Muslim women.”

JAG also reiterated its call for PH to ensure a minimum of 30 per cent women’s representation in Cabinet, pointing out that only 20 per cent of those announced so far were women.

It pointed out that women were ‘glaringly missing’ in the state executive councillor lineups in Penang, Selangor, Johor, Melaka and in the Sabah state cabinet—where only one woman was a representative.

“Pakatan Harapan can still make things right at the Federal level,” JAG said.

“At least five more women need to be named for the remaining cabinet minister posts, if there are 25 ministries in total.”