KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Women from lower income groups were the majority of those who approached Sisters In Islam’s (SIS) helpline service, Telenisa, for legal advice last year.

The group’s senior legal adviser Ireeny Muzammel said that out of 426 calls received from their clients, 57 per cent were homemakers and support staff from the B40 income group.

“As the B40 group is of the lower-income tier, it suggested that the majority of our clients are burdened financially to obtain legal representation. This is because in Malaysia, legal fees are generally expensive and largely unregulated.

“However, their financial burden is not restricted to legal representation only as our clients struggle to pay for additional expenses such as transportation and additional child care expenses. They also struggle to find the time to attend meetings with lawyers as they are unable to take leave from their work,” she said when presenting the Telenisa Statistics and Findings today.

She said 90 per cent sought legal advice and the remaining were looking for legal representation (five per cent), counselling (four per cent) and shelter (one per cent).

“Due to a long waiting list or the urgency of the case at hand, our clients would often resort to self-representation in the shariah courts, which is allowed.

“However, this would usually bring our clients to a disadvantage as they are not well-versed or they do not have the experience with court procedures and applicable laws. Although access to justice seems apparent, there are still barriers to overcome in ensuring a fair and just legal system,” she added.

Earlier today, the women’s advocate group unveiled the annual Telenisa Statistics and Findings for the sixth year through its legal clinic that has been operating since 2003.