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GEORGE TOWN, Sept 18, 2014:

While the “30 Per Cent Club” move should be ostensibly lauded, it is pointless having 30% of women in decision making positions as the really important decisions are made in the political arena, says human rights activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

She was commenting on a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the 2014 Women’s Summit on Monday that the government would look into the possibility of initiating the “30% Club” to increase the number of women at decision-making levels.

Marina said though the deputy premier did not explicitly mention where the initiative had come from, she pointed out that the idea was mooted at the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW.

“It was signed by Malaysia way back in 1995 and only after 20 years of it being signed has it been considered in this country.

“One of the things we signed up was to allocate 30% of decision making powers to women and secondly when CEDAW said 30%, it did not only apply to public or private sectors, but also in the political arena.”

She said the move of having 30% of women in the decision making process would be pointless when the ones who held more weight were those in the political arena.

In substantiating the rationale of having women at the decision-making level, she cited the passing of the Domestic Violence Act as an example.

“The passage to getting this Act was a long and tedious one, championed and fought for by women for six years before it was passed.

“Many in the male dominated Dewan Rakyat thought this was not an issue that needed to be in the public arena as they saw it as a family issue that should be kept indoors.

“They did not realise that it is a crime for women to be beaten or roughed up even by their own spouses.

“Some even opposed it as they thought it was unIslamic, ignoring the fact that the Prophet had never struck any of his wives.

“Yet, they wanted to dress like him and emulate him in other areas, but did not acknowledge the fact that he never ever beat his wives.

“However it is something good to know that Malaysia is the first Muslim country that has this Act against Domestic Violence as we women fought hard for it and got it.

“Now what would it have been like if we had had more women, at least 30% in Parliament then, in the 90s? Wouldn’t the law have been passed much faster?

“Imagine in the eight years it took to get the law passed, how many women would have been battered, abused, chased away from home.”

She said this in her speech at the “Women at Work: Championing Rising Talents 2014 Women’s Development Forum” held at the Penang Skill Development Centre (PSDC) in Bayan Baru here today Laws, she said, could also be made in the court of law, citing the case of Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin, 29, who sued the government in 2011 after Hulu Langat district education officers revoked her appointment as a relief teacher in January 2009, upon discovering her pregnancy.

Noorfadilla subsequently won the case in a landmark Shah Alam High Court decision.

“Interestingly, it was a female judge who presided and said that since Malaysia had signed the CEDAW, which is a United Nations treaty that Malaysia ratified in 1995, it was ‘binding and has the force of law.’

“This is the first decision that applies CEDAW and Article 8(2) (of the Federal Constitution) to find the government liable for gender-based discrimination and that goes on to say that having women as lawmakers would empower women.”

Marina went on to chide certain women who echoed male beliefs that women should not be leaders and certainly not leaders of men.

“I find this quite prevalent as some gave supposedly religious reasons for this as with the recent fiasco about claims that women cannot become leaders because of religious duties; because they menstruate.

“I find this amusing — how can a woman of 60 still have her period? Obviously those who said such a thing must have failed in their Biology at school, ” she said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Marina also suggested incentives be given to males especially fathers who choose to break away from the norm by staying home to look after their children.

“Instead of the normal Mother of the Year Award given to some struggling single mother who raises her children by selling ‘kuih’ we should also acknowledge and reward these sort of fathers. “We need to normalise men who choose to stay home to care for their children while their wives work and debunk the stereotypical thinking that the ‘Stay At Home Dad’ is less of a man.”

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