PETALING JAYA: Pasir Salak MP Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman's use of profanities in Parliament and his disparaging remarks aimed at women MPs must not be tolerated or allowed in Parliament as it borders misogyny, say civil society groups and women's rights advocates in the country.
Tajuddin went on a tirade on female Opposition lawmakers and even went as far as to call them indecent. He also allegedly uttered an obscenity while debating the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill on Wednesday (July 20).
The Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy Group, in a statement released immediately after Tajuddin's outburst in Parliament - ironically while the anti-sexual harassment bill was being debated - said: "(We) strongly condemn the outrageous and disrespectful behaviour of the Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman while Parliament was debating the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2022 this afternoon.
"We stand in solidarity with all MPs speaking up against this including Hannah Yeoh, Kasthuri Patto, Steven Sim, Wong Shu Qi, RSN Rayer, Teo Nie Ching and Alice Lau.
"We call on the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to take strict disciplinary measures and make the necessary ruling against Pasir Salak.
"Such shameful conduct has no place in Parliament, let alone while debating a Bill intended to protect those facing sexual harassment," the statement read.
Karen Lai, programme director of the Women's Centre for Change, Penang said that condoning Tajuddin's behaviour would normalise violence against women which was "the last thing we need in Parliament".
"We expect our Parliamentarians to be, at the very least, mature adults. Even schoolchildren understand that swearing and uttering profanities is uncouth and unacceptable behaviour.
"The rude profanity uttered created a hostile and intimidating environment and I suspect was directed at women MPs.
"All MPs whether men or women need to get it into their heads that resorting to swearing and aggressive shouting is akin to a toddler throwing a tantrum in a playground.
"To tolerate such behaviour is to condone it, and to condone is to normalise and deem it acceptable. "Normalising violence against women is the last thing we need in Parliament.
"Otherwise it completely undermines Parliament's intention to pass legislation against sexual harassment," says Lai.
Veteran women's rights activist Ivy Josiah was also quick to call out Tajuddin's "disgusting" behaviour and said that he should have been removed from the august House.
"His words and behaviour are disgusting and bordering on misogyny. The Foreign Ministry should abandon any plan to appoint him as Ambassador to Indonesia.
"Even as the House is debating gender issues, he was unable to read the room, to comprehend that his response is unacceptable.
"In fact, he should have been removed from the House and suspended. Other MPs have been removed for less," said Ivy.
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Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (Arrow) executive director Sivananthi Thanenthiran says: "Clearly MPs need gender-sensitisation so they can understand the law reforms which call for non-discrimination and equality.
"MPs who are gender sensitised will be able to better represent the needs, aspirations and priorities of their female constituents. And that’s 50% of the citizens of this country.
"Some parliamentarians have a history of spouting uncouth and unbecoming statements about their female MPs, but also on topics such as women’s dressing and menstruation.
"Ironically, making sexist statements can also be construed as a form of harassment and that obscenity should be uttered during the reading of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill just goes to demonstrate the necessity of such laws to be enacted.
"Laws provide the normative framework for our society. It may not mean certain practices or ways of thinking will be eradicated but it’s the first step in saying what’s desirable and what’s not desirable in our society," she said.