Perpetuating gender stereotypes in a time of crisis does more harm — EMPOWER

MARCH 31 — Responding to social media graphics produced by the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, EMPOWER Malaysia is shocked at the lack of gender sensitivity and knowledge of women’s rights by those in the ministry.

“At a time when women in Malaysia fear losing their jobs due to Covid-19, it is shocking that the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs advice is for women to be more concerned about the way she looks and that she should wear makeup?”

“EMPOWER Malaysia views the series of Instagram graphics by the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs to be in poor taste and continues to perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. This is unacceptable conduct by those in public office. This also showcases the fact that the Ministry is not up to the task of protecting and promoting women’s rights.”

“Instead of producing such sexist materials, the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs should be studying the gendered implications of the Covid-19 virus on women and to develop a strategy together with civil society groups and other stakeholders to address this.”

Background

The Ministry of Women and Family Affairs released a series of social media graphics on March 31, 2020 with the hashtag #WanitaCegahCovid19 on tips for working mothers on what they should wear and how to avoid conflict in the household.

The graphics perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and are inconsistent with Malaysia’s human rights obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) which it ratified in 1995.

In the 2018 Cedaw Concluding Observations, the committee strongly recommended that the government takes these actions to eliminate gender stereotypes among others.

The committee recommends that the state party:

(a) Adopt a comprehensive strategy with proactive and sustained measures that target women and men at all levels of society, including religious and traditional leaders, to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes concerning the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society;

(b) Adopt measures to encourage men to share child-rearing and housework responsibilities equally with women, including by introducing paternity leave in both the public and private sectors and by introducing flexible working arrangements for both fathers and mothers;

(c) Adopt innovative measures targeting the media to strengthen the understanding of the substantive equality of women and men and use the education system to enhance positive and non-stereotypical portrayals of women.

* Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) media response issued on March 31, 2020.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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