PETALING JAYA: Activists and lawyers have come out in defence of PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, 61, over a statement that she could not be the Selangor Mentri Besar due to her menstrual cycle.
Lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun was reported to have said that a woman mentri besar would suffer from uzur syarie which would place several obstacles should she accompany the Sultan during religious functions.
WAO executive director Ivy Josiah said the statement was illogical as two predominantly Muslim nations, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have had female presidents and ministers.
"Throughout the years to fight for women's rights - we were told that as women we can't go out of the house, go to school and be a leader. And misinterpretation of religion has been used to keep women down," said Josiah.
She added that the statement was incoherent to her and "a way of upholding male power."
"Malaysia has come a long way, for us to go back and say what was said, it is going backwards. As a women's rights activist, I can sense this as a form of upholding male privilege and power," Josiah told The Star Online.
Similar views were shared by Negara-Ku coalition co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan who said such sexist views run contrary to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees equality for women.
"Many Muslim women are in leadership positions in countries that may be said to be more conservative than ours. Still, this is not about religion. It's about politics and to use religion in this manner to score a cheap political point is shocking," said Ambiga.
The former Bar Council president added that such comments "belong in the Dark Ages."
"We welcome and encourage the participation of women in public life and so many women in leadership positions have acquitted themselves admirably. Such misogynistic views have no place in our society," said Ambiga.
Padang Serai MP N. Surendran noted that the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia, was led by a woman president.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, generally known as Megawati, leader of the PDI-P party, served as the President of Indonesia from July 2001 to October 2004.
"This shows there is no prohibition in Islam stopping women from being top leaders," said Surendran.