Second, Third, Fourth Wives – Speak Up!

Y Madjati
Feb 21, 2006

I refer to the article Never trust the weather and politicians.

I am shocked and disgusted with Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s spinelessness. It is an insult to the intelligence of Malaysian women, and I wonder how she manages to sleep at night knowing that she has let her fellow women down and turned against women’s groups who have worked so tirelessly to ensure that at least someone is fighting the good fight.

This nonsense and tyranny has gone on for too long. How many times have we heard of women being disadvantaged and victimised by men who portend to interpret laws in the vein of self-righteousness to the detriment of fairness and justice? I still remember a time – a very long time ago – when a man taking on another wife did so based on ! notions of responsibility and fairness, not right and entitlement.

How were the Prophet’s (PBUH) and the Quran’s intentions of providing security to war widows and orphans turned into a man’s absolute, indiscriminate right? One that he can now, with the new Islamic Family Law, invoke simply because it is ‘necessary’. What does ‘necessary’ mean? That he cannot, unlike good decent men, stop himself from looking at another woman, fantasising about her, committing ‘dosa besar’ with her? This is rubbish and has gone on for too long.

Enough of politeness and walking on egg-shells. It is time for women to stand up for themselves. Sure, Sisters in Islam and other women’s groups must take the lead but what is the point if the intelligent, progressive and capable women of Malaysia don’t speak up? Where were we when the men who decide on our rights and our lives gave more power to their fellow men? Some of us made jokes about it. Others became that Other Woman.

It is s! ad and offensive that these days young girls think nothing of marrying much older men, leaving a fellow woman in the lurch. Please do not say “I love him” when he is 50-something and balding and you are 20-something and want financial security and branded leather bags. We don’t buy them.

I am sure I do not have to tell second wives that their position is always precarious. Judge a man’s character by his actions – if he can cheat on his first wife, he can cheat on you too. So yes, second, third and fourth wives, your voices are needed most urgently! We have allowed polygamy to become fashionable in Malaysia, we have turned a blind eye as it slunk sneakily into the fabric of our society. This is not the time for women to become enemies of women. This is the time for women to reach out to each other and finally take a stand.

And this goes first and foremost to you, Shahrizat. But it also goes to all the women out there who have neglected to make their voices clear and! strong. It is time to act. If it is too late for you, it is not too late for your daughters and granddaughters!

What can we do? Learn about the issues. Write to news sites like malaysiakini and to the newspapers. And when women’s groups organise petitions and meetings, do participate. And when you are called upon to make up the numbers and to be heard, stand up and straight, and make yourselves heard.

We all know that women in this country make for a strong force. We are home-makers, policy- makers, decision-makers, teachers, lawyers, accountants, artists, business-owners. We know we are just as smart – if not smarter – than the people who are now running our lives. We contribute to this country as much, if not more. Why then are we now relegated to voicelessness? Diminished by our own kind? How ridiculous is this?

The time to act is now. SIS and the Joint Action Group (JAG), lead the way and let’s see who will take up the challenge. If there is no ! one, if Muslim women in particular are too apathetic, too ‘nak buat macam mana’ or too stuck in the Dark Ages, while fellow Muslim women all over the world are now making their mark and showing their muster, then so be it. We deserve what we get. The rest of us must then resort to drawing up pre-nuptials or not marrying at all!

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