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KJ’s Women’s Day wish - look at character, not clothes

COMMENT In conjunction with International Women’s Day, I want to share with you my aspirations for women in Malaysia.

My aspirations are on be things we can work towards over the next three decades (hopefully earlier!) as we implement the National Transformation 2050 vision for Malaysia.

Of course, first and foremost on my mind is to make sure that, by 2050, Malaysia is no longer a patriarchal and misogynistic society that objectifies women and focuses more on how she should look and what she should wear, rather than the content of her character.

By 2050, no one should think that it’s fine to make crude, suggestive remarks about women completely violating their dignity. No one should be stupid enough to suggest that sexual harassment or crimes are the fault of the woman for what they wear.

By 2050, I want a Malaysia where women feel confident and secure enough to pursue their dreams and be ambitious. And that ambition is something that is not used against them.

By 2050, I want a society that allows every single woman to fulfil their true potential. For their contribution to the nation, even as a homemaker or mother, to be acknowledged. For the workplace to be flexible enough to allow for people to choose to work and raise a family.

By 2050, I want a society that values our female athletes for their sporting achievement and not obsess about what they are wearing.

By 2050, men who don’t pay child support should be jailed.

And hopefully by 2050, we would have a female prime minister.

As for the rest of my aspirations for women in the future, I want to share with you the aspirations of a friend of mine whom I have a lot of respect for. I think she speaks not only for me but also for many Malaysians who want to see a more fair, just and equal society.

For a woman to be able to go out alone or jog in the park, morning or night, and feel safe.

For men (and women) to learn to truly respect women as human beings, not objects to be peddled or shamed or trivialised. With real respect there would be less objectification, less gender discrimination/prejudice, less domestic violence, less online bullying/shaming, less ‘casual’ sexual harassment, less predation.

For women to be hungry for success and excellence, to not hold back and try to please, to go after what they want, including becoming prime minister! And for society to help women be hungry and to flourish, to have a narrative and platforms where women can see themselves as prime movers, rather than doubting themselves or being unambitious or making themselves objects. Girls, you are not defined by the amount of likes you get on social media.

Acknowledging the role of women is complex

For men, women, society and the government to acknowledge that the role of women is complex and heavy - we work the same as any man, we have careers, ambitions and dreams, yet we also play a key role as mothers, wives and homemakers - the core component of family units. The role of women in today’s society is changing, evolving and therefore the treatment of women and expectations of women must also evolve and change with the times.

For domestic and sexual violence against women, physical and psychological, to be seen as absolutely unacceptable in the eyes of society and the law. This value would be reflected in everything from public attitudes to authorities’ emergency response procedures to sentencing.

By 2050 for there to be no more need for discussions on the challenges women are having today - at school, at work, in society. So what if you are a woman - you can just do whatever you feel passionate about and whatever you believe in. No need for quotas. Gender is irrelevant.

If you feel strongly about these aspirations and want to organise a TN50 dialogue on women/gender issues, please email [email protected] I will be happy to join you for that conversation.

Happy International Women’s Day. In the words of the great 21st century bard, “Who run the world?”

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN is Youth and Sports Minister and MP for Rembau.

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

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