AFTER a delay of almost 10 years and continuous lobbying by various women’s groups, Malaysia is finally undergoing its second review under the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) on Feb 20 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The government of Malaysia will be sending a 24-member delegation to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Cedaw Committee, which will be evaluating the country’s progress in implementing its obligations to uphold and promote women’s human rights.
A coalition of Malaysian women’s organisations jointly submitted a shadow report to Cedaw on the lived realities of women’s lives in Malaysia and to address gaps in the government report, in 2017. Five delegates from this coalition are participating in the review. Cedaw and UN processes welcome and encourage the participation of civil society in its review process. We strongly believe that the presence of women’s organisations can only strengthen the country’s commitments to gender equality. The review process also gives an opportunity for status of human rights to be discussed in a meaningful manner.
Currently, the Malaysian parliament does not debate women and human rights reports produced by Suhakam and civil society organisations, making the UN the only available accountability mechanism to assess progress on the ground. The rights of women in Malaysia have evolved over the years, whereby women have enjoyed relative progress in many areas of their lives. While there has been significant improvements in areas including primary education and maternal health, in other areas, however, the rights of women have had little or no progress.
Malaysia’s legal and legislative framework particularly requires significant changes to eliminate discrimination against diverse women and women of diverse backgrounds. The country has also recorded an increase in gender based violence, including hate crime, and sexist remarks in multiple spaces, especially online spaces. These are just some of the lived realities which reflect the little progress in the area of changing attitudes on sexism and gender stereotyping in Malaysia.
By ratifying Cedaw in 1995, the Malaysian government signalled its commitment to fully implementing the treaty as part of its legal and policy framework. However, there is scant evidence that this is actually happening in practice. For example, while the government has installed gender focal points in all ministries, many laws and policies appear to have been drafted without taking into consideration women’s realities and Cedaw’s framework of gender equality.
By undergoing this review, the Malaysian government is demonstrating its commitment to accountability and gender equality. We hope that the government will take the review as an opportunity to explore recommended practices to achieve gender equality with the best minds in the field. The Cedaw committee’s recommendations must be integrated at all levels of governance.
WOMEN’S NGO COALITION FOR THE 69TH CEDAW SESSION