Votes sought for best and worst statements by Malaysians

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 25 Apr 2015

(From left): Aliah Ali, Kristine Yap and Evelynne Gomez.

PETALING JAYA: Remember all those sexist, homophobic and transphobic statements you heard last year that made you cringe and beat your head against the wall?

Well, it's that time of the year again and readers get to vote on which is the worst in the 2015 Aiyoh WatLah Awards organised by the Joint Action Group (JAG) for Gender Equality.

They also get to vote on the good things that occurred on the website.

Readers have until midnight Sunday to cast their vote in the seven categories, namely "Foot in Mouth"; "Insulting Intelligence"; "Policy Fail"; "Cannot Ignore"; "Least Helpful to The Sisterhood"; "Enough Already!" and "Right on Track".

"The annual awards ceremony doubles as a public education tool, used to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of misogyny, sexism, homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia," says Kristine Yap of Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) in an interview.

"It's not to attack any individual or put anyone on a pedestal," she adds.

The results show on May 10 will be once again hosted by Jo Kukathas, in her legendary character Ribena Berry, says Evelynne Gomez of All Women's Action Society (Awam).

And for the first time, since its inception in 2012, the show is leaving the Klang Valley and taking place in Ipoh at the Sarong Paloh Heritage Hotel along Jalan Sultan Iskander from 3pm-5pm, says Aliah Ali from Sisters in Islam (SIS).

"Misogyny, sexism, homophobia and transphobia is not just a Klang Valley problem. JAG decided we wanted to engage with a different audience and so we decided to take the awards to Ipoh this year," says Yap.

"Last week some 400 had voted and this week the number jumped to 1,300. From previous years it seems to plateau around 1,000. With the awards in Ipoh this year, we hope more people will be voting from there," adds Aliah.

Yap, Evelynne and Aliah are in the committee that selected the nominations for this year's awards. They range from two to four nominations per category.

According to Gomez, the general trend in Malaysia is that bigotry in its various forms is directed at women in politics and trans people.

While the former could be because there are now more women in politics, Aliah and Gomez say the transgender case in Negri Sembilan has opened up the discourse on Gender Identity Disorder (GID).

"Instead of the usual low blows directed at trans people, the discussions now touch on the scientific and legal; people are trying to make sense," says Aliah.

"But there's also unfounded scientific claims, like that by a university lecturer that GID is the result of environmental toxins," laughs Gomez. (That statement is one of the nominations in the "Least Helpful to the Sisterhood" category.)

Asked which category shows the worst of the problem for each activist, Alia picks "Least Helpful to the Sisterhood", Yap goes for "Insulting Intelligence", which Gomez agrees with but adds that "Cannot Ignore" is just as bad.

They say JAG is pleased to see an extension of space for public discussion on issues of gender and sexuality which were once limited to women's groups.

"It's been really heartening to see a broadening of public discourse for these issues," says Gomez.

"I think that public education efforts like JAG's Aiyoh WatLah!' Awards have increased awareness and extended the scope for an alternative point of view," she adds.

The members of JAG for Gender Equality are Awam, SIS, WAO, Perak Women for Women Society (PWW), Empower, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Sabah Women's Action Resource Group, Tenaganita and WCC.

For more information on the awards ceremony in Ipoh, call PWW at 05-546 9715.


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