This year’s International Women’s Day sees the theme of I Am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights, an important year that marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the route towards empowerment of women and girls across the world.
In line with this, The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), partnered with the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM) and Justice for Sisters (JfS) launched an initiative to work with policy makers and civil society organisations on the national and state levels, that aims to improve the lives of women, girls and marginalised groups in Malaysia. Called the ‘Gender Equality Initiative in Malaysia’, the project, while being funded by the European Union, will run over the next two years with clear goals in mind particularly for women, girls and the LGBTIQ+ communities in Malaysia.
ARROW Executive Director, Sivananthi Thanenthiran stated, “ARROW and partners as part of this initiative, stand to support the Government of Malaysia, civil society and stakeholder groups, to ensure women, girls and marginalised groups in Malaysia achieve their full potential and no one is left behind in the quest for sustainable development.”
Though Malaysia has made progress in certain areas such as the amendments to the Domestic Violence Act of 1994, there is still much work to be done. The initiative aims to bring about the Malaysia-specific recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Universal Periodic Review (UPR) such as: the adoption of a Gender Equality Act in Malaysia, prohibition of female genital cutting/mutilation, ending child marriage and raising the minimum age of marriage to 18, amending laws that discriminate against the LGBTIQ+ community, introducing comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education as part of school curricula, and ensuring that all women have access to quality reproductive healthcare services.
According to FHRAM’s executive director, Syirin Junisya, every women and girls are inspirational, each with their individual strengths.
“It is critical we empower them to be agents of change in society and eliminate factors that perpetuate gender bias and other challenges that arise in a patriarchal society. In a bid to achieve gender parity, we need more of these women and girls to bring about lasting change,” she said.
“In order to achieve gender equality for all, we must firstly understand that sex and gender are two separate things, acknowledge the diversity of bodies, genders, sexes and expressions as well as their lived experiences. We will not be able to achieve gender equality if we do not address the discrimination faced by LGBTIQ persons, homophobia and transphobia in laws ans society,” added JfS founder, Thilaga Sulathireh.
March 8th also saw the annual Women’s March take place in Kuala Lumpur. We believe that every citizen has the right to protest and that action should not be taken against the people. Human rights defenders should not be arrested for asserting their civic right to the freedom of speech and expression.