Malaysiakini Letter

Bridging the political gender gap

Lim Yi Wei
Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Yesterday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said the lack of Malaysian women’s participation in political empowerment does not necessarily mean that the government practices discrimination against women.

He was referring to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017. The 4 subindexes were economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

Malaysia was ranked 104 out of 144 countries. In political empowerment, Malaysia ranked 133 – a marked contrast to our performance in the other 3 subindexes. The report also included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

The BN-led government may not explicitly discriminate against women, but it does little to empower women politically.

Till today, Malaysia has not had a single female prime minister or chief minister. Since the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman, there have only been 25 female deputy ministers. We have had 11 female ministers in total, a dismal average of 2 per term.

This statement implies that the government recognises that women’s capability in politics and public service, but excludes them from top roles.

In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak became acting women, family and community development minister. This year, he became chairman of the MyWIN Academy Advisory Council, which is tasked with pushing women's empowerment and innovation. Surely there had to be women capable of steering both bodies.

The New Straits Times also quoted Salleh Keruak saying that; “women should be more motivated to highlight their capabilities and accentuate their professionalism and role in the country's leadership.”

Unfortunately, when female MPs assert themselves, BN politicians have no compunction in uttering demeaning remarks to them. As a young girl in 2007, I still remember Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin uttering the infamous “bocor” remarks.

Just last week, Bung remarked that if a woman is “not pretty”, she would not be desirable even if she was nude.

As a young woman in DAP and Pakatan Harapan, I am thankful to have female leaders trailblazing the way and male leaders who see us as equal partners at the table.

Democracy is all about representation.

With women forming half of our population, the lack of women political empowerment means that half of Malaysia is underrepresented and under-heard. Increased women participation in politics can help create more comprehensive and inclusive policies relating to the subindexes of the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report.

If we want to close the gender gap in economy, education, and health, we need to close the gender gap in political empowerment first.


LIM YI WEI is the political secretary to Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara. She is also a councillor with the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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