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Malaysia will 'regress' if sexism in politics prevail, say women NGOs

Malaysia will 'regress' if sexism in politics prevail, say women NGOs
Women's NGO representatives at a press conference in Teluk Intan.
TELUK INTAN: Malaysia will stop in its tracks in becoming a progressive nation, and will instead regress, if politics continue to be so dirty and sexist, according to two women’s rights NGOs.

Perak Women for Women (PWW) and EMPOWER (Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor) this morning spoke out against sexist and misogynist attitudes that have been showcased by leaders from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, especially in the run up to the Teluk Intan by election.

“As long as we have gender biasness, Malaysia won’t move along. We will continually be oppressed and if it worsens like how we are seeing in recent days, we will simply regress instead of progress,” said PWW vice-president Sumathi Sivamany at a press conference here.

The two NGOs zeroed in especially on Barisan Nasional leaders who have reportedly ‘unleashed’ uncouth remarks against DAP candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud.
“On May 25, an event celebrating women in Teluk Intan, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin went on to give a speech that empowerment of women, gender equality and women’s inclusion in decision-making process are central in shaping a democratic and developed society. He should have also taken the opportunity to call on members of his own government to not undercut his message,” said Sumathi.

Instead, continued Sumathi, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi decided to dish out another helping of sexism, claiming that Dyana was “not that pretty” in person compared to her appearances in pictures or on TV.

Just two before that, Sumathi said Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan also ‘denigrated’ Dyana when he declared:“Do we vote because she applies lipstick? Because she smiles and puts on make-up and is a little prettier than Mah?”

They also referred to the fake bikini photos that has been circulating in an apparent attempt to smear Dyana’s image.

The two NGOs called for politics to be more substantive and talk about leadership qualities, policies for a clean, efficient and transparent government instead of a woman’s beauty.
They said that attempts to run down a politician because of gender and age, would just turn people away from politics.

They also said that woman BN leaders also face similar treatment, such as the remarks MCA candidate Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun received in the recent Kajang by election.

“Why are the BN women leaders silent on these issues? Are they only towing the political line? We all need to speak up,” said Wong Kar Fai of EMPOWER.

Wong also noted that Malaysia is a signatory to the The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the action of the leaders clearly goes against its principles to uphold women’s rights.

“CEDAW also encourages at least 30% women in politics, but in Malaysia, we only have 23 women MPs which makes up 10% of the Dewan Rakyat.

“Malaysia has also continually slipped in the Global Gender Gap Index to be ranked 110 out of 132 countries surveyed, that shows a reflection of Malaysian women’s participation in politics,” said Wong.