KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Several non-government organisations (NGOs) urged the government today to enact anti-discrimination laws, after a PKR lawmaker suggested legislating against workplace discrimination.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said such laws were necessary after a recent incident involving an international hotel not allowing its front desk staff to wear headscarves.
“All policies should uphold the basic principle enshrined under Article 8 of Federal Constitution that guarantees equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender and religion.
“Towards this aim, we call for increasing urgency to adopt a Gender Equality Act for Malaysia that would end gender discrimination in the workplace and other spheres of life,” the group said in a statement today.
Among the members of JAG include Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS) and All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) among others.
PKR’s Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli said he will be gathering the support of lawmakers to push for a workplace discrimination law to be mooted in Parliament soon.
JAG noted that while the policy to forbid women from wearing headscarves was “discriminatory”, policies that force women to cover their hair were also the same.
“This policy discriminates against Muslim women, as it reduces employment opportunities for women who wear headscarves.
“On the same note, policies that makes wearing a headscarf compulsory are also discriminatory,” the group added.
Secular movement BEBAS also echoed the call for an anti-discrimination Act to enacted to prevent discrimination in various areas.
“We urge that the proposed Act be more inclusive to cover many other facets of unfair discrimination, including on factors such as age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and discrimination against people living with HIV,” the group said in a statement.
The group also wanted laws to encompass more than the workplace and to include other avenues, like the property rental market.
The Malaysian Labour Centre of the Union Network International recently said hotel employees had complained about discrimination against Muslim front desk workers who were told to remove their headscarves.
The ban had caused uproar among some Islamist groups and Opposition party PAS, since it was highlighted last week.
In other instances, WAO also reported last year that almost 90 per cent of pregnant women face discrimination in the workplace.
Putrajaya however has expressed there is no need for such anti-discrimination laws as the country’s unity and peace was still intact.