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Friday, 6 March 2015

‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity’

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commemorates the 2015 International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on March 8.

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (‘Beijing Declaration’), a remarkable roadmap adopted unanimously and signed by 189 governments in 1995. The Declaration had set the agenda for advancing the goals of equality, development and peace, as well as the empowerment for all women.

To this end, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!’

While there have been significant achievements in women’s rights in Malaysia, many impediments still remain. The commission views with particular concern issues on violence against women, sexual harassment of women at the workplace, the right to education, health and social well-being of women and girls, the rights of indigenous women and incidences of child marriage, amongst others.

Furthermore, despite Article 8 of the federal constitution, female employees in the private sector do not enjoy the same constitutional protection against discrimination or enjoy the same benefits as their counterparts in the public sector. For example, even with the recommendation by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on maternity leave being not less than 14 weeks, most private sector employers offer maternity leave up to only 60 days.

The commission recalls the assurance by the Malaysian government in March 2010 reiterating our commitment to the Beijing Declaration at the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. As such, the Commission calls on the Government to take active steps to remove remaining legal obstacles and gender discriminatory practices and policies in Malaysia.

Additionally, the government announced its plan to increase women’s participation in the workforce to 55 percent by 2015 in the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP).

In achieving this target, the commission recommends that the government emplace a comprehensive strategy that rejects patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women in all sectors, in conformity with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), which Malaysia is a state party to.

In addition, the Asean Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children also calls on member states to take “necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women” and “intensify efforts to develop and improve existing legislative, education and social measures and support services aimed at the prevention of violence against women.”

The commission hopes this can be achieved in active collaboration with civil society organisations, through public education and awareness on women’s rights at all levels of society.


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