In Malaysia, virtual International Women’s Day celebration repeats calls for Sexual Harassment Bill to be tabled, end to child marriages

Demonstrators take part in Women’s March Malaysia 2020, in conjunction with International Women’s Day in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2020. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Demonstrators take part in Women’s March Malaysia 2020, in conjunction with International Women’s Day in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2020. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — The 2021 International Women's Day (IWD) celebration kicked off under the new normal today, with women mostly taking to social media platforms to express their grouses, demands and hopes for the fairer sex and sexual minorities.

Despite being off the streets this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the virtual march dubbed the Women's March KL 2021 still made its "assembly" very much felt, with many sharing photos of the public gatherings which took place in the previous years, echoing similar sentiments and demands, accompanied by #WomensMarchMY.

Illustrator and designer Ann Li designed digital placards for social media users to type their messages and demands, sharing the designs on her Twitter account.

"Not sure if anyone’s interested in these but I made pride themed pickets for #WomensMarchMY! You’re more than welcome to write your demands onto the picket and share without credit," Li tweeted. 

Li also welcomed direct messages from those who have specific design requests.

Trans-activist Dorian Wilde meanwhile called for an end to all forms of regressions against the often oppressed group.

"Malaysia in the 80s was a very different time for a trans person. You could access legal gender recognition, hormones, surgeries and counselling, no issues. Stop the regression! #WomensMarchMY #PerarakanWanitaMY Thank you @kawliflower for the template!" he tweeted.

Twitter user Tabung Pelangi called for more diversity and equality among the country's leaders, to be able to better represent the diverse community here.

"Happy International Women's Day! There should be more diversity and equality amongst our national leaders to better represent us. Do participate in #WomensMarchMy #PerarakanWanitaMY with your voice!" the tweet read.

As with previous years, many also called for an end to child marriages and for better access to education for girls, tabling of the much awaited Sexual Harassment Bill and to end violence against the LGBT community members.

Social activist Ivy Josiah called on men to join the cause and be part of the solution to the problems faced by women.

"Happy International Women’s Day. #ChooseToChallenge Challenge men to advocate for gender equality. Men must choose to be part of the solution not the problem. #WomensMarchMY," she tweeted.

Those participating in the online campaign today also did not face the onslaught of hate, anger and online abuses, contrary to the animosity they faced in the previous years.

In 2019, organisers of the IWD march, which was held in the city, were investigated by the police under the Peaceful Assembly Act 9 (5) and Sedition Act 4 (1).

The organising committee said public statements by police, politicians and various parties had mischaracterised the march as an “illegal LGBT assembly”, which had caused multiple forms of backlash and had shifted the focus away from the five demands made on the day.

In terms of their demands this time around, the organising committee had in a statement yesterda, stressed that their seven requests from 2020 still remain relevant today, asserting repeated violations of women’s rights and rampant abuse during the ongoing pandemic.

Among their requests include putting an end to violence based on gender and sexual orientation, a ban on all child marriages, calling for the right and freedom to make choices over one’s own body and livelihood, equal pay for work of equal value, and for the administration to legislate the Gender Equality Act.

The committee is also pushing for the government to declare that a climate crisis exists and to formulate a national plan to mitigate its effects and for equal participation between men and women in the public and political circle.

Abuses cited by the committee include incidents of sexual harassment by policemen at roadblocks, apparent neglect and failure by the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry in prioritising the rights of women and girls, encroachment and deforestation of Orang Asli and Orang Awal lands, while also bemoaning the lack prosecution of against perpetrators of sexual harassment and blackmail.


 

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