Women representation sorely lacking

PETALING JAYA: With less than 10% of women being fielded in the Sabah state election, a glance in the direction of other state assemblies in Malaysia showed an equally dismal view.

Out of the 13 states, only Selangor has more than 10 female members in its state legislative assembly, with 13 female assemblymen out of 56.

Johor has eight out of 56. Sarawak has seven out of 82 and Penang has six out of 40, followed by Kedah, Pahang and Perak with five female assemblymen each. Perlis’ 15-member assembly has four.

Kelantan, Melaka and Negri Sembilan each has only two female members while Terengganu’s 32-member state assembly has only one.

Meanwhile, the ongoing Sabah election is seeing only 43 female candidates being fielded compared with a total of 404 male candidates.

Out of the 222 seats in Parliament, only 33 are held by female MPs.

Political analyst and senior lecturer at Kolej Universiti Poly-Tech Mara Dr Sharifah Syahirah Syed Sheikh said a quota policy for women as representatives in state assemblies and Parliament is needed.

“In a good democratic country, the state assembly and Parliament representation must reflect the population composition (of said country).

“However, due to the patriarchal mindset and politics, women are being discriminated against within the party structure and perceived as followers or party workers instead of leaders.

“I would like to advise women leaders in all political parties to be firm and demand at least 30% of women candidates in the upcoming 15th General Election,” she said when contacted.

Political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia said while the idea of having a 30% female involvement in government and politics kept being repeated every year, the implementation has never been seriously done.

“The 30% quota failed although we keep on saying every year during Women’s Day that we would like to have it in place. The implementation was never addressed seriously,” he said.

“A quota policy and other measurements must be taken in order to see better results in implementation.”

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said as all political parties in Malaysia were dominated by men, barriers were erected within them to hold back women.

One such barrier set up by male-dominated parties was the setting up of women’s wings in their political parties, he said.

“All such gender or age-based wings should be abolished to allow women and youths to compete for party positions based on merit,” he said.

Fann said unless there was a conscious and active effort to promote women’s participation in politics by the parties, Malaysia would have to consider legal compulsion through electoral system change or by legal requirements.

A proportional representation system would provide such a mechanism, where it can be mandated that there must be 30% or more women representation, he said.

“Representative democracy is only meaningful if all segments of society are equitably represented.

“Women have proven themselves to be very capable leaders in other countries but our society, in general, is still patriarchal,” he said.

However, political parties have a responsibility to change such cultural mindsets and biases, added Fann.

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