280611 | Penang
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced yesterday that the government will compel the corporate sector to have at least 30% women in decision-making positions by 2016 (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/compulsory-30pc–women–stake–in–top–level–posts–by-2016/)
This is not a new thing; since 1995, the Malaysian government has ratified the United Naition’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), which among others called for at least 30% women representation in decision-making positions in all sectors.
While the present move is commendable on the part of the Federal Government, Najib’s announcement missed the core of the issue.
To force the corporate sector to have a women quota does not solve the problem of gender inequality if the Government itself do not lead by example. Currently the biggest hurdle in towards gender equality and women’s empowerment is policy-making.
Women are still gravely under represented in the Government. A report on Malaysia Gender Gap Index by the Women Family and Community Development Ministry in 2009 showed that gender gap remained wide in the fields of politics and economic empowerment.
The move of the Government is akin to the Malay proverb “the crab teaching its youngs to walk straight”. Najib’s Cabinet only has 2 female Ministers among 30 Ministers, that is only about 6%. In Parliament there are only 10% women MPs and the average number of women state assembly members throughout Malaysia is about 8%.
Thus, we can see how the poor representation of women in the highest level of the Government and in politics is reflected in gender imbalanced policies such as lack of child care facilities, gender inequality in employment, sexual harassment in workplace, non-recognition of the care economy where homemakers who are mostly women are not acknowledged in their contributions towards nation building.
By forcing the private sector to adopt 30% women quota without first addressing the problems in existing Government policy and structure, the Prime Minister is privatizing the Government’s duty towards gender equality!
Finally, by implementing gender quota without a long-term strategic framework towards achieving equality, the Government risks the abuse of affirmative action policy which will ultimately see the quota system as serving cronies and impeding growth of talents.
Therefore, I call upon the Prime Minister to examine his own policies and look at how poorly women are represented in his Cabinet and in his government as a whole before he begins to shove the responsibility of ensuring gender equality to the private sector. He should at once commit to have at least 30% women minister in the next Cabinet reshuffle as well as to re-look at Government policies which are gender-discriminatory. The Government should also actively implement the recommendations of CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action 1995 to provide the total framework for gender equality in our Country before expecting the private sectors or anyone else to adopt quotas and other mechanism of forms without the actual substance.
Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai Councillor
Executive Director, 3Gs Penang (www.3gspenang.org – Good Governance and Gender Equality Society, Penang)