JAG Statement: Open letter to the Dewan Rakyat Selection Committee

Open letter to the Dewan Rakyat Selection Committee
Form Parliamentary Select Committee on Gender Equality
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG)
For immediate publication, 14 August 2018
 
 
To: Dewan Rakyat Parliament Selection Committee
YB Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof
YAB Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
YB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
YB Mohamad Sabu
YB Ignatius Darell Leiking
YB Tan Kok Wai
YB Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
The formation of the Selection Committee is a promising move, in the broader effort to reform Parliament. As you decide what Parliamentary Select Committees (PSC) to form, we urge you to establish a PSC on Gender Equality.
 Comprehensive legal reform
 
The Pakatan Harapan Manifesto includes a commitment to ensure “the legal system protects women’s rights and dignity”, including to “review all laws relating to gender equality to ensure that every woman enjoys legal equality”.[1] Achieving this requires a comprehensive review and reform of the legal system, which the PSC on Gender Equality would facilitate. Forming the PSC would help demonstrate Parliament’s commitment to gender equality, especially after the failure of government to fulfil its commitment to 30% women representation, in cabinet and all state assemblies (except eventually Selangor). The Manifesto Wanita, a civil society GE14 initiative, also demanded for a PSC on gender equality. This manifesto was endorsed by 47 civil society organisations, and 18 political candidates or politicians.[2]
 
 International obligations
 
The Manifesto also includes a promise to “make our human rights record respected by the world”.[3] The Malaysian government (under the previous administration) did not fare well in its review by the UN CEDAW Committee[4] earlier in 2018. To improve, the CEDAW Committee noted to the Malaysian government, the “crucial role of the legislative power in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention [CEDAW]”, and urged Parliament to “take the necessary steps” to implement the concluding observations.[5] Forming a PSC on Gender Equality would demonstrate the new government is making efforts to meet the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations, and gain confidence from a global audience.
Gender / women committees in other legislatures
 
Many other jurisdictions have specific Parliament committees on gender equality and / or women’s rights. In the United Kingdom, the Parliamentary Select Committee for Women and Equalities has an active role in examining legislation, policy, and expenditure of the government in relation to gender equality issues. The Select Committee is able to call upon experts and hold public conferences when investigating and auditing the government’s performance on these issues. Other examples of Parliament committees on gender include the Committee on the Empowerment of Women (India), the House Standing Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women (Cyprus), the Gender Equality Committee (Croatia), the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (European Parliament), Senate Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (Belgium), and the Equity and Gender Committee (Mexico).[6]
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus?
 
In the previous Dewan Rakyat, a Women’s Parliamentary Caucus existed. Though an important development for women politically, the Women’s Caucus was established without a resolution by Parliament. As an informal body, it was not allocated a budget and it lacked substantive power.
We hope you will consider this suggestion. Thank you.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG)
 
Endorsed by
1. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
2. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
3. Justice for Sisters
4. Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG)
5. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
6. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
7. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
8. Sarawak Women for Women Society
9. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
10. Tenaganita
 
For more information, kindly contact Yu Ren Chung at 016 718 3247 / [email protected].
 
[1] Buku Harapan, Commitment 4.
[3] Buku Harapan, Promise 26.
[4] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, a United Nations expert committee.
[5] “Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Malaysia”, 14 March 2018, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
[6] “Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, A Global Review of Good Practice,” Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2011
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