Group wants UN standards to guide parliamentary committee on gender equality

Loghun Kumaran
JAG says the new parliamentary committee on rights and gender equality must uphold the UN standards and the conventions previously ratified by Malaysia. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

IPOH, Aug 28 ― The new parliamentary select committee (PSC) on rights and gender equality must be guided by the United Nations (UN) human rights standards, a gender equality group asserted today.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), a coalition of women’s rights groups, added that the committee must uphold the UN standards and the conventions previously ratified by Malaysia.

This, they said, includes the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

“The committee must be guided by these conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This also means upholding the the human rights principles and values of equality, non-discrimination, dignity, diversity, respect, and choice,” it said in a statement today.

Earlier this month, the Dewan Rakyat was reported saying it would establish six bi-partisan PSCs to study Bills before they are tabled. 

The six subject areas are: Consideration of Bills, Budget, Home and Defence, Rights and Gender Equality, Federal-State Relations, and, Major Public Appointments. 

Congratulating the government on the formation of the gender equality PSC, JAG urged for all six PSCs to be set up by the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

 “We urge the Dewan Rakyat to form all six Select Committees as soon as possible, at the next Dewan Rakyat session which starts in October 2018,” it said.

JAG called for the appointment of MPs who have track records and expertise in human rights and gender equality.

The coalition also wants half of the gender equality PSC members to be women.

JAG also said the PSC needs to be given an adequate annual budget and a relevant scope and authority, in order for it to function effectively.

“This should include powers to review draft laws, monitor the implementation of laws, request briefings from ministers and government departments, conduct inquiries, call for submissions from stakeholders, review budgets, and provide recommendations to the government and the Dewan Rakyat.

“It must also spearhead comprehensive law reform. This involves  amending or abolishing laws that allow gender-based discrimination and oppression, and researching and proposing new laws to fulfil gender equality and human rights,” it said.

The group urged the Dewan Rakyat to ensure an open, transparent, and inclusive engagement process by inviting experts and affected groups to submit evidence and information, facilitating online suggestions and comments from the public.

The group said this would ensure that the committee’s activities were publicly known and available, while keeping a diverse set of stakeholders engaged. 

“This move is one step towards ensuring that ‘the legal system protects women’s rights and dignity’, as promised in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto,” the group said.  

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