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Women are no longer seen as quota fillers, but they need to be evaluated based on their academic qualifications, skills, and abilities, thus increasing their contribution to the national economy. NSTP/ROHANIS SHUKRI

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been called to realise gender equality rights in the upcoming 2020 Budget to ensure that women’s interests are protected and discrimination can be avoided in accordance with specific provisions of the law.

An expert in family law, women and children from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal suggested the government could take several initiatives such as to optimise the employment rate of women in the job market, particularly in the private sector.

The move to give equal access to women based on credibility, skills, and capabilities will boost a company’s productivity, and increase national revenue, she said in an interview here.

In fact, a recent World Bank report said Malaysia’s income per capita could grow by 26.2 per cent – implying an average annual income gain of RM9,400 (US$2, 250) if all economic barriers were removed for women in Malaysia.

“Women are no longer seen as quota fillers, but they need to be evaluated based on their academic qualifications, skills, and abilities, thus increasing their contribution to the national economy.

“Women’s participation is active in the public sector, but in the private sector, women employees are still considered less capable and unable to compete with men, especially in management and leadership, thus reducing their chances of promotion,” she said.

At present, women comprise 39 per cent of the total Malaysian labour force with men representing the other 61 per cent.

Noor Aziah, who is also the Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) Commissioner for Children, said the government should review existing laws on discrimination against women, including the difficulties faced by mothers to obtain Malaysian citizenship status for their children born overseas.

Currently, under the Federal Constitution, only Malaysian fathers are allowed to automatically obtain Malaysian citizenship for their children born overseas, while mothers have to apply for it.

According to Noor Aziah, this had many implications on the women and their children including in health, education, and social services.

“More unfortunate, these children have limited access to the national school system, including not being able to get school textbook loan schemes, free vaccination, and healthcare up to 12 years of age.

Sharing similar views, the co-founder of the Foreign Spouses Support Group, Bina Ramanand, wants the government to be more transparent in the process of applying for citizenship by explaining the details and reasons why an application was rejected.

She said the approval of the Malaysian citizenship application currently takes between two and 10 years, causing some families to give up on their marriages and go through suffering that affects their children.

“A Malaysian man can easily pass on his citizenship to his children who are born overseas and they only need three weeks to get their application approved. Unfortunately, a Malaysian woman cannot do the same.

“Instead, she needs to apply, but most applications are rejected and takes years without any explanation (on the rejection), thus requiring the mothers to renew their visas yearly to ensure their children stay in their homeland,” she added.

According to Bina, Malaysia is currently one of 25 countries in the world that deny women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis as men. - Bernama

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