KUALA LUMPUR: Organisers of the International Women’s Day March here have defended the event as being about the fight for equal rights amid criticisms that it had LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) participants.
The organisers of the #WomensMarchMy this year instead reiterated its five demands including ensuring women’s rights, an end to violence based on gender and sexual orientation, a ban on child marriage and a minimum wage of RM1,800.
More than 1,000 people took to the streets near Sogo KL on Saturday to march for women’s rights in conjunction with International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8 each year.
Among the participants were members of Women’s Aid Organisation and Sisters in Islam, activists and students.
Many held colourful placards that championed various issues concerning women and gender equality and chanted slogans like “End child marriage”, “Hidup Wanita!”, “Stop sexism” and “Jangan Kacau LGBT”. A few displayed LGBT rainbow flags.
In a statement yesterday following criticisms of the event, the organisers said the importance of realities and demands was sidelined by the media and those who opposed the march.
“Instead, disproportionate attention was made to single out and target the presence of the LGBT participants.
“This borders on incitement of hate and violence towards a section of the society who are at risk and facing multiple forms of discrimination,” the group said.
The government, it added, could not be selective in carrying out this duty to only particular groups of women but must apply this to everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, age, ability, location, gender or sexuality.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof reportedly called the event that defended LGBT rights as an abuse of democratic space.
He said the government would never accept LGBT practices in the country.
Equally critical of the event was Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who said the combination of the Women’s March and the LGBT agenda was “disgusting”.
He added that while fighting for women’s rights was noble and should be supported, combining it with the LGBT agenda was a provocation towards the country’s stability.
Their comments incurred the ire of social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir who tweeted late Saturday: “I’m calling you out @wansaiful and @mujahidrawa! You are trying to distract from addressing very real women’s issues by focusing on only one of many demands at the #WomensMarch. Shame on you! #misogyny #youreadisgrace.”
Meanwhile, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), a coalition of 12 women’s rights organisations nationwide, expressed disappointment with the backlash from the government and others from the ruling coalition.
“The government must guarantee ‘democratic space’ for everyone. Not just for people, the government – or even the majority – agrees with,” JAG said in a statement.
“The minister also reportedly said ‘it was up to the Home Ministry to take firm action against the organisers’. It was also reported that police would call the rally organisers soon. We view this step with serious concern,” it added.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) reminded Mujahid that democracy is about allowing all quarters to express their views and concerns in a peaceful way.