Gender group slams political parties for lack of women representatives in Sabah election

JAG today criticised political parties in Malaysia for a lack of women political participation in the ongoing Sabah state election. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
JAG today criticised political parties in Malaysia for a lack of women political participation in the ongoing Sabah state election. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) today criticised political parties in Malaysia for a lack of women political participation in the ongoing Sabah state election. 

JAG in a statement today pointed out that according to the Election Commission (EC) only 43 out of the 447 candidates running in the state elections are female.

“The lack of political will in appointing women candidates highlights the ongoing resistance to women’s political leadership in this country. 

“It also shows the ongoing discrimination and socio-cultural barriers that women still face within political institutions, which run contrary to Malaysia’s international legal obligations and commitments,” the statement read. 

According to JAG the women candidates include two from Umno, one from MCA, two from Perikatan Nasional (PN) and one from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). 

JAG said that women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. 

“It facilitates women’s direct engagement in public decision-making and is a means of ensuring better accountability to women. 

“The under-representation of women at any level of governance and decision-making, is resulting in a democratic deficit.

“Women’s equal participation and representation in local decision-making processes in Sabah will be critical for prioritising women’s practical needs in related to housing, healthcare, education, transport and the economy,” the statement added. 

JAG also said that women’s participation in decision making is important with the current Covid-19 pandemic as women’s unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people. 

JAG also said it believes that the lack of women candidates is clearly not due to the lack of capable women politicians in Sabah, but the discriminatory attitudes towards women entrenched within Malaysian society.

“These actions are inconsistent with Malaysia’s obligations under Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), which Malaysia ratified in 1995, which calls on the authorities to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political life of the country,” it stated. 

JAG also calls on all political parties to address the gender imbalance by appointing women as nominated assemblypersons after the elections. 

“In the mid to long term both national and state political parties must adopt policies and measures within their party in order to guarantee and accelerate women’s political participation as recommended by the Cedaw Committee.

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