Gender equality is sadly not apparent in the new cabinet. The All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) is disappointed that no real attempt was made to improve women’s participation in decision making in parliament. The number of women in the cabinet, five full ministers and four deputy ministers, has not increased. With the overall number of positions increased in the cabinet, the ratio of women to men in cabinet has, in fact, dropped.
This gap in gender equality is made even more obvious when one takes into account that 2020 is an important year for women on a global scale. It is the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most advanced blueprint for achieving gender equality in the world. Malaysia is one of 189 countries that will be reporting in New York, in September this year, of progress made against commitments towards gender equality. It also marks 10 years since the establishment of UN Women, and the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
It is imperative that we have more women decision makers in the country, especially so in these trying times for our country. Compared to their male counterparts, female politicians are more likely to substantively advance women’s rights in areas such as pay equity, violence against women, health care and family policy.
In a cabinet that was not mandated by the people, it is perhaps superfluous to ask for more female cabinet members, as ideally, AWAM would prefer democratically elected female cabinet members. However, with Covid-19’s grip on society, low oil prices and a looming global recession, we should focus our limited time and resources on working with what we already have.
Thus regardless of who is in cabinet, it is imperative that we continue with proposed reforms such as the introduction of a new stand-alone Sexual Harassment Bill, the Anti-Stalking Bill and amendments to the Employment Act to introduce paternity leave, anti-discrimination policies and offer longer maternity leave. These reforms are at the point where they only need to be tabled at Parliament, and will ensure that the majority of the rakyat ( not just women) will be safer and healthier.
Social polices such as the Sexual Harassment policies contributes to the positive development of the country and more importantly, are not politically motivated. Yet, ironically, in aiming to gain the rakyat’s trust and gain political mileage, it would be in the interest of the cabinet to ensure that these reforms go through. It has been empirically proven that social policies promote social trust and lead to better growth in the economy. We are all one in our goal that we would like to see a safe, thriving and nurturing Malaysia and not one that is archaic in its vision. This would be an excellent opportunity for the new PM and his team to prove to the rakyat that they will be indeed a cabinet that delivers.
ALL WOMEN’S ACTION SOCIETY (AWAM)
10 MARCH 2020