Wanted: Conviction, political will to uphold rights of women, children

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Sisters in Islam (SIS) views with grave concern whether the Perikatan Nasional government has the conviction and political will to uphold and strengthen the rights of Malaysian women and children as well as migrants, refugees and stateless women and children, following Prime Ministeri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent announcement on the new cabinet line-up. The vision to end child marriage in Malaysia is not a shared goal between Sisters in Islam and Pas, one of the political parties that make up the Perikatan Nasional government.

Women’s groups have been advocating for many years to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for all girls in Malaysia without exception, and yet, we have a political party in the new federal government that deems child marriage to still be a necessity in the Pas-ruled states.

With Pas in the fold, would the Perikatan Nasional government be at all interested to protect the interest of the child without resorting to marriage as being the answer for her to have a future?

The government of Malaysia, together with other countries around the globe, have made commitments towards achieving sustainable development goals by 2030.

Among the 17 goals is the fifth goal: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The targets and indicators for this goal include and are not limited to:

  • ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • eliminating all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  • ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
READ MORE:  SIS welcomes five-year plan to end child marriage

On 6-7 November the Malaysian government held the Malaysia Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2019, co-organised by the then Ministry of Economic Affairs and the UN. Azmin Ali, who was then the Minister of Economic Affairs, also gave the opening remarks, assuing Malaysians of the commitment to implement the sustainable development goals.

It is imperative that this work continues to ensure that Malaysia fulfils the 2030 Agenda with the overall aim that no one gets left behind.

The recent and sudden political shift in Malaysia not only has caused a delay in the parliamentary sitting, inadvertently it has also delayed the introduction of reforms to laws and policies that are meant to give women further protection and exercise of their rights including the introduction of the Sexual Harassment Bill, an amendment to the Penal Code to criminalise stalking and the introduction of the anti-discrimination provision in the Employment Act.

These reforms of laws and policies were advocated in response to the constant and multiple challenges that Malaysian women face every day physically and online. Thus, we do not wish to see these reforms stalled or delayed any longer. Women and children in Malaysia deserve better and they deserve it now.

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