Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) wants the government to show firm commitment in enacting the Gender Equality Act in a bid to curb discrimination.

Its executive director, Sumitra Visvanathan, said such law was needed to ensure that women would be protected in every aspect of life.

“We actually have been advocating the act for quite a while with JAG (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality) to draft the act, but we now want to know what are the next steps and when will it happen as we want things to move forward as planned to see the legislation done.

“There are some indications saying that it will be done in 2020, yet there is nothing from the government for this until today,“ she told reporters after the launch of a report on the status of women’s human rights after 24 years of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) in Malaysia here today.

Meanwhile, International Women’s Right Action Watch Asia Pacific director Mary Shanthi Dairam said the government should define clearly what constitutes to discrimination before tabling any bills.

Mary, who is also the WAO executive council member, said current laws do not adequately prohibit gender discrimination in all fields.

“Constitutional guarantees of equality have been interpreted narrowly by the courts to not include the private sector.

“Hence, women in the private sector will continue to suffer in silence due to the delay in enacting the law,“ she said.

She said when women get discriminated at work, they have few or no options for redress at all.

“The act should not only prohibit gender discrimination, but also ensure that women who experience discrimination can easily get justice – without having to go through a lengthy, tiring, and costly process,“ she said.

The report, among others, highlighted critical issues in women’s human rights such as female circumcision, gender inequality in citizenship and discrimination against transgender women.

It was coordinated by WAO and JAG with input from 38 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Mary said the report was something that the groups hope would help the government to see the gaps in gender equality.

“The report should not be seen as something that is finding fault with the government but rather as something that can help the government to identify where the gaps are, “she said.

Source: The Sun Daily

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