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Gender-based quotas are an insult to M’sian women

COMMENT | Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak recently proposed a 30 percent quota for women representatives in Parliament.

“More women participating in politics would better reflect the electorate and make the political process more inclusive, hence strengthening democracy,” he said.

Najib also added that all boards of directors of government-linked companies, government-linked investment companies and statutory bodies should comprise 30 percent women by the end of 2018.

While Malaysia is proposing the 30 percent quota, many countries around the world have already introduced a gender-based quota system, such as Norway, Iceland, Germany, France, Uganda, Libya and India.

But do they work? Are they really democratic? And are they effective?

If the goal of such a proposal is to bring more women into governance and the top ranks of business, they may work in achieving just that. But how do we guarantee the meaningful and effective participation of these women?

Yes, quotas allow women’s voices to be heard where they are otherwise excluded. On this hope many women welcome such gender-based quota systems – because they believe that getting more women into government will result in more women-sensitive laws and policies.

But the question is, do these women representatives make enough effort to champion the women’s agenda and have their voices heard?

A quick check on Wikipedia shows that since 1957, the Malaysian cabinet has had 11 female ministers, 25 female deputy ministers and 14 female parliamentary secretaries assisting ministers.

Yet, today we still see more Muslim women victimised in the never-ending divorce sagas; non-Muslim women losing their children to their Muslim ex-spouses; polygamists celebrated, circumcision performed on female babies born to Muslim couples; young girls married to their rapists; and child marriages.

And to top it all, our current women, family and community development minister is a woman who has no qualms about 12-year-olds marrying their middle-aged rapists and dropping out of school.

Honestly, has the performance of women representatives in our cabinet given any hint that they will champion the women’s agenda?

Or have we forgotten that some insensitive statements about rape and rape victims have come from these women themselves?

If you ask me, any qualified man would do a better job championing the women’s agenda if he is a good leader, compared to these half-baked women representatives.

So do we need a 30 percent allocation for women who can’t even do their jobs...

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