Women’s group calls on govt to table Gender Equality Act now


KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has called for the immediate tabling of the Gender Equality Act in Parliament to stop discrimination in the workplace.

Its vice-president Meera Samanther said the organisation wanted the firm commitment of the government and a proper timeline for the Act to be finalised.

“WAO and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality have been working with the government to draft the Gender Equality Act. We want to know what the next steps are and when they will happen,” she said at the Invisible Women Art Exhibition launch in conjunction with International Women’s Day at White Box, Publika, here today.

“We need the Gender Equality Act because women in the private sector are currently not protected from gender discrimination.

“When women get discriminated at work, they have few or no options for redress, many suffer in silence, leave their jobs or are told to leave, we need the Act to bring change,” added Meera.

In November 2016, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim announced in Parliament that her ministry would work on the Act.

The draft for the Act is currently under review, and discussions between the ministry and several other women’s organisations including WAO have begun.

According to a 2016 WOA survey, 40 per cent of pregnant women have experienced discrimination at workplace.

In the survey, 20 per cent of women had their job applications rejected or job offers revoked when they disclosed their pregnancy and out of this number, only one in eight women lodged a complaint.

Furthermore, 30 per cent of women said they would delay a pregnancy for fear of losing their job or promotion.

A visitor takes a picture of an exhibit at the launch of the Invisible Women Art Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2018. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

The exhibition showcased pieces with testimonials from women who had been sidelined for their gender.

The exhibition is a joint effort between WAO and Leo Burnett KL.

It aims to raise awareness on the discrimination faced by pregnant women and working mothers in the workplace.

Also present at the launch was British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell.

She stressed that in order to create an equal environment in the workplace, legislation had to be introduced and enacted.

“The British government, in terms of our foreign policy, has placed women and girls as one of its main agenda,” she said.

“In countries like Malaysia, it comes down to the practical things we can do, the lobbying for change plays a huge role.

“If we want to change attitudes, legislation is the way to go,” she added.

The exhibition will take place until March 18. Opening hours are from 10am to 10pm.

Entry is free.