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Assessing Malaysia’s Commitment to Gender Equality through the Report on Malaysia’s Progress and Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.1.1

Sisters in Islam (SIS) and Musawah have launched the first comprehensive research titled, “The Report on Malaysia’s Progress and Commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Goal 5: Gender Equality’. The launch of the report was officiated by YB Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, Penang.

Commissioned by SIS and Musawah, this report seeks to inform where Malaysia currently stands in eliminating discrimination against women and girls through existing legal frameworks and mechanisms and to achieve gender equality in areas such as marriage, family and workplaces. The report is also the only report to be published globally, making it the first of its kind to raise awareness on Malaysia’s current standing and provide an in-depth assessment of the legislative system and policies in place that enforces and promotes equality and non-discrimination based on Indicator 5.1.1 through 45 key questions developed by the United Nations.

The report highlights several key gaps in practices of gender equality and eliminating discrimination against women in Malaysia, including the lack of detailed gender statistics, lack of direct or indirect laws to protect women against discrimination and concerns that government authorities do not have jurisdiction in gender-related matters involving religious authorities. Hence, to address these gaps and to raise awareness, the report explored four key areas which are: Overarching legal frameworks and public life; Violence against women; Employment and economic benefit; and Marriage and family. 

Measured through indicator SDG 5.1.1 and the 45 key questions developed by the UN, the report has found that alarmingly, between 2018 to 2020, Malaysia has shown completely no progress in the four areas. Among the issues that have shown no progress according to the report include citizenship of children born outside of Malaysia to Malaysian mothers who marry foreigners – while we see the Malaysian cabinet agreeing to amend Article 15(2) of the Federal Constitution recently, actions to amend this article have yet to be taken; marital rape that has not been criminalised in Malaysia; child marriage still happening in Malaysia, despite having only two states, Selangor and Kedah raising their minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys; and the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act that is still not yet enforced despite receiving Royal Assent in October 2022.

These issues and the lack of progress doesn’t bode well for Malaysia in achieving the goals to not leave anyone behind given that there are only seven years left to realise the UNSDG goals overall by 2030. Even though SDG 5 on Gender Equality is a goal on its own, the impact of this goal cuts across the other 16 sustainable development goals thus it is critical that the government and all relevant stakeholders address the indicators of SDG5 in order to ensure that Malaysia is not left behind globally. Additionally, Malaysia is experiencing a huge gap according to the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum released in 2022. This report benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment) and tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time. The 2022 report showed that Malaysia was ranked 103rd out of 146 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index. Amongst the ASEAN countries, Malaysia ranks in the bottom three.

Therefore, this report is pivotal for all stakeholders, including the government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), researchers and academicians, as it provides a critical tool for effectively measuring and tracking Malaysia’s progress towards gender equality and to galvanise all stakeholders to take concrete actions to improve women and girls’ lives in Malaysia and achieve gender equality.

*Download the Report on Malaysia’s Progress and Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.1.1 here: