COMMENT | Malaysia needs bold reforms – including Women-Only Additional Seats – to achieve the minimum 30 percent women representation in politics, and we call upon Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to commit to this critical step.
Malaysia is shamefully backward in gender inclusion in the world – including in Southeast Asia. With only one woman among every nine parliamentarians, Malaysia is only better than Burma (Myanmar), Brunei and Thailand in the region.
Our country needs a quantum leap and JAG urges the prime minister to consider a bold move to introduce women-only additional seats for Parliament and state legislatures.
The National Conference on Gender and Electoral Reform (NCGER), which concluded on Nov 24, 2017, adopted two proposals:
(a) For legislatures with 20 percent or more but less than 30 percent women, the legislatures should be expanded to have 30 percent Non-Constituency Seats (NCS) with a 50 percent women quota, thus ensuring that there would be a minimum 15 percent women presence.
(b) For legislatures with even less than 20 percent women, the legislatures should be expanded to have 20 percent NCS but all reserved only for women, thus ensuring that there would be a minimum 20 percent women presence.
The conference was organised by the Institut Wanita Berdaya, Selangor.
NCS are like party-list seats in countries with Party-List Proportional Representation (List-PR) systems, which normally represent special issues or interests, instead of local issues.
As issues affecting women – like gender-based violence and harassment, childcare, or socio-economic empowerment – are often state-wide or nation-wide in nature, they would be better articulated by women leaders and activists working on these specific issues; rather than by local constituency representatives.
Additionally, women’s perspectives must be represented in mainstream issues.
While Malaysian voters cannot vote directly for parties, the NCS can nevertheless be allocated to all parties based on their vote share in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections. Hence, NCS will not only increase women’s representation as a whole, but will also highlight women’s voices in every party.
Importantly, NCS and the women-only seats can have an immediate effect. Following the NCGER’s proposal, our Parliament, which currently has only 24 (10.8 percent) women members, should add 55 of the seats, which will make these 55 seats a 20 percent in the enlarged House of 277 seats.
Had we had women-only seats in the 13th general election (GE13), we would have had 24 women constituency MPs and 55 women-only seats parliamentarians, who would constitute 28.5 percent, very close to the minimum 30 percent global benchmark set in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.
With this 20 percent women-only seats formula, Penang, Johor, Perlis and Pahang would have reached 30 percent in GE13. Even for Terengganu, where not even one woman was elected, there would be 20 percent women members representing state-wide interests. All seven other states would score higher, from 24.4 percent to 29.7 percent.
For Selangor, which currently has 14 (25 percent) women assemblypersons, the 30 percent NCS formula with 50 percent women quota would have added 24 NCS members, with 12 being women. This would increase women’s total to 26 in the 80-member assembly and their percentage to 32.5 percent.
We reiterate that as real decisions are made in the Dewan Rakyat and the state assemblies, rather than the Dewan Negara, introducing women-only seats/NCS in the federal and state elected houses would be much more meaningful than the 30 percent appointment in the Dewan Negara.
JAG urges the prime minister to introduce this bold reform as a groundbreaking legacy of his rule in government.
The Joint Action Group For Gender Equality (JAG) comprises:
All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
Perak Women For Women (PWW)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
Sisters In Islam (SIS)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Women’s Center For Change (WCC)
The views expressed here are those of the authors/contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
Unrestrained power in your hands
For almost 20 years, Malaysiakini has stayed true to the cause of providing the Malaysian public with the truth. We believe that with unadulterated information, the people will obtain power to make informed decisions.
Decisions which lead to a healthy, robust nation - ours!
Keep the truth alive. Support your robust, independent media. You have the unrestrained power to do so.
Who says it's not our fault?
We aren’t trained to take responsibility.
Everytime we observe an injustice - and choose to keep mum - the prevalence of injustice becomes our fault.
Astute journalism paves the way for the public to be continuously furnished with the fastidious truth. You are continuously empowered to act and to uphold the integrity of the nation.
The Rakyat owns Malaysiakini
We choose to take a risk on independent media because we believe that only through independent reporting can one be NOT beholden to the interest of businesses or organisations. This allows us to really pursue the truth - aggressively.
Independent for 20 years.
The victorious people
In the light of holding the truth to power, Malaysiakini will continue to uphold its mission of providing credible news to its discerning public. Your support for Malaysiakini is always treasured as a testament of innate nationalism. Your victory is our history.
Quietly. Effectively. Says it all. Malaysiakini.
Speaking truth to power
When we embarked on this journey 20 years ago, we knew we would face intimidation, harassment, raids, arrests and perhaps even jail terms. We got into this venture with our eyes wide open.
The main reason we have survived this long - when many others have folded - is partly because we are prudent in our finances. But while we may be tightfisted in our budgeting, we do not hold back when it comes to speaking truth to power and holding power to account. And certainly, this new administration will not stop us from continuing to do so.