MARCH 23 — I tell people often that Malaysia hates its women.
We only need to look at Singapore and Indonesia to see that as far as politics is concerned, there seems to be a rattan ceiling.
In Singapore, a woman has become a Parliament Speaker and is currently the country’s president.
Not just any woman — a Malay Muslim, which is interesting in a country where the majority race is Chinese but in Malaysia a woman can at most aspire to be deputy Speaker.
In Indonesia, which has its fair share of problems where women are concerned, a woman has not only headed a party but was elected president.
Just recently in 2019, the country also elected its first woman House Speaker.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, the government is appealing against a ruling that will allow women to attain citizenship for their children born overseas with a foreign spouse.
What is concerning is Malaysia’s insistence on punishing women for having the audacity to marry a non-Malaysian man or not making the effort to at least give birth in Malaysia.
The argument that women who want citizenship for their children should just come home does not take into account the challenges, among them financial, to do so.
Women past a certain stage of their pregnancies are not allowed to travel by air; to get permission to fly, pregnant women also need a note from a doctor.
The pandemic also made it even more difficult than it already is to travel so to ask Malaysian women to fly home, from wherever they are, just to give birth has a financial and physical toll.
Speaking of pregnancy, Code Blue’s Azrul Mohd Khalib pointed out that the latest amendment to the Employment Act has removed maternity provisions for pregnant women earning more than RM2,000.
Before the Act was revised, the maternity provisions were applicable to all women regardless of salary.
It’s unsurprising how this went unremarked considering the lack of female representation in politics.
Look at our Cabinet and how few women there are in it, compared to men. Look at our political parties and how much say women have.
None of our political parties are headed by women. Most are relegated to women’s wings or even junior women’s wings which I find ridiculous especially when it comes to so-called “youth” wings.
Shouldn’t a youth wing represent all genders? Why must women have seperate wings and why do they not have the same rights or chances at advancement in politics?
This gender segregation and enforced limitation on how far a woman can go and what rights she is accorded in politics is mirrored in society.
How many women lead GLCs or universities? How many women are CEOs or chairman of the board?
Why do the very few women who rise to the top end up being given everything available to them instead of opening up opportunities to other women?
I’ve seen that too often in the past — one woman lands a big position and suddenly directorships come raining down, ignoring the many other, just as qualified, just not as famous, women.
It’s sad that we even need a women and children’s ministry in the first place but the thing is, our men are so lacking in empathy and general understanding, not to mention steeped in patriarchal attitudes, that I doubt a Malaysian man could do a good job in the role.
Let’s not forget that just recently our “unity” minister decided to display unapologetic casual racism by asking an Indian representative to go home and eat his thosai.
The only way women will have their rights advanced and their lives improved is to have more women in power because as the years have proved, we really can’t trust a man to do a woman’s job — to stand up for her rights.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.