THE Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI) notes with concern the manner in which the Kuala Terengganu by-elections were run by both the Barisan National (BN) and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) candidates. There was so much focus on race, hudud laws, and distributive justice vis-a-vis the state of Terengganu and the Federation of Malaysia.
Voter on polling day in Kuala Terengganu’s by-election
But, we did not hear from either one of the candidates what their specific plans were to elevate the status of 50% of their constituency: the women.
How have they planned to enable the women in Kuala Terengganu to improve their businesses, obtain better education, provide them with childcare facilities, have better access to healthcare, and enable them to participate in the elections in leadership roles?
There are no women Members of Parliament and only one woman state assemblyperson in Terengganu. This state of affairs cannot continue if either party is serious about the promises they made during the 2008 general election that they would champion women’s rights. It also cannot continue if Malaysia’s aim of having at least 30% women in decision-making processes under the 9th Malaysia Plan is to become a reality.
Reading the newspaper in a goldsmith’s shop in Kg Cina, Kuala Terengganu
It is not enough to have women in supporting roles, yet again. After all, women too will be affected by the by-election’s outcome. Why was a woman candidate not fielded by either party?
Equal participation of women and men in power and decision-making are affirmed in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) which Malaysia ratified in 1995. Article 7 of Cedaw obliges Malaysia to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life to ensure not just participation, but representation in institutions such as Parliament.
It is also not consonant with Malaysia’s commitment to implement the Beijing Platform for Action to provide women with equal access to be leaders in the political arena. General Recommendation No.23 of the Cedaw Committee on Political and Public Life notes that the concept of democracy will have real and dynamic meaning, and lasting effect only when political decision-making is shared by women.
Simranjit Kaur Gill and Honey Tan
Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI)