021012 | Bukit Mertajam
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s statement today at the National Women’s Day celebration saying, there is no need for women’s rights movement in Malaysia is both delusional and offensive. It shows how naive the Prime Minister is in regards to the challenges faced by women in Malaysia and everywhere. To add to the insult, Najib is also the Women, Family, and Community Development Minister. Obviously the Prime Minister has shown himself to be terribly ill-suited to this important position.
The Prime Minister’s justification for brushing off women’s rights movement is that women in Malaysia have the right to vote. This is outright ridiculous; woman suffrage was recognised more than 100 years ago. Today, women having voting right should be normative, not celebratory. Najib is totally ignorant of the glass ceiling facing modern Malaysian women. Malaysia has scored badly in the Global Gender Gap Index, falling from ranking no. 72 in 2006 to no. 97 in 2011. In fact barring Najib’s boasting of “women’s right to vote”, we are ranked no. 115 out of 135 countries in the area of political empowerment. If Najib would have noticed something to this effect if he had been paying attention to his honourable colleagues in the Parliament; since Merdeka, there has never been more than 10% women in the Dewan Rakyat. The United Nations’ goal for women participation in decision making including in politics is 30%. Najib’s cabinet started with 2 women out of 30 Ministers. By appointing himself as the Minister for Women, Family & Community Development recently, a position traditionally held by women since its establishment in 2000, Najib has reduced the number of woman in Cabinet to only one person.
Much has been said on the above, on the stagnated women labour participation rate in the last 20 years, on the income disparity between men and women, on the escalating sexual crimes, on the feminisation of poverty and many more. How then can Najib belittle the tireless efforts by women and men who struggled against the mainstream to advocate for gender and social equality? I think this is yet another symptom of a dying political empire, its leaders are now overcome with self-praise and self-congratulatory attitude over their achievements where there is none, ignoring the harsh reality that the people are facing.
There is no point in asking Najib to apologise or even to step down. The only way forward for Malaysia is a regime change.
Publicity Secretary, DAPSY Penang
Councillor, Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP)