Malaysia’s Cedaw review: Stem the regression of women’s rights — Comango

FEB 26 — The Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango) congratulates the government of Malaysia for participating in its second constructive dialogue with the Cedaw Committee at its 69th session in Geneva, Switzerland.

However, the government of Malaysia is yet to reply to some key questions and critical concerns raised by the Cedaw Committee. Comango echoes these concerns and urges the government to step up its commitment to stem the regression of women’s rights in Malaysia. Much more concerted efforts need to be done in order to promote and protect women’s rights and gender equality.

The Cedaw Committee was dismayed that overall, women’s human rights — especially those of Muslim women — has regressed. Malaysia has also maintained their reservations on Articles 9(2) (women and men should have equal rights with regard to the nationality of their children), and Articles 16 (1) (a) (c) (f) and (g) (rights of women on marriage, divorce and over their children).

Malaysia has also failed to ratify the Optional Protocol to Cedaw (OP-Cedaw). OP-Cedaw will allow women in Malaysia whose rights were violated to communicate directly with the Cedaw Committee for adjudication.

The Cedaw Committee commented on the lack of a legal framework to fully incorporate equality and non-discrimination into Malaysian law. Currently, only the provision in Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, and the decision in the Noorfadilla case adopted the definition of discrimination against women according to Article 1 of Cedaw. These have been held to be insufficient to hold private actors, such as companies, responsible when they breach women’s right to work and women’s rights at the workplace.

The Cedaw Committee was appalled that Muslim children born less than 6 months after marriage could not bear their fathers’ names but had to be labeled ‘bin Abdullah’. They also questioned the Malaysian delegation on the attacks against women human rights defenders such as the fatwa that was issued against Sisters In Islam.

Comango is greatly concerned that the Cedaw Committee’s questions on matters that violate Muslim women’s rights have come under attack by some NGOs in Malaysia. These include issues on female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting, whipping, polygamy, and unequal inheritance.

The Cedaw Committee acts on an internationally approved mandate as part of the UN’s standards of State members’ accountability to human rights. The transparent process is open to all including civil society’s participation and the proceedings have been made public via live web broadcast. These attacks on the Cedaw Committee are therefore unwarranted.

Many issues remain unanswered after the review by the Cedaw Committee: How will Malaysia stop attacks against persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; What steps will be taken to ensure better treatment of refugees and foreign spouses; Will marital rape be criminalised, and when will stalking in real life and online be made unlawful?

Malaysia will face its 3rd Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in November 2018. Comango hopes Malaysia unequivocally upholds international human rights standards based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Cedaw and all relevant UN Conventions. Greater political will, and the sincere desire to follow through while being accountable and transparent on all these issues is much needed now.

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

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