The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has called on the government to come up with a gender equality law as soon as possible as a mechanism to protect discrimination against women, particularly in the workplace.
Executive committee member Mary Shanthi Dairiam said Malaysia has an obligation to enact such a law, as it has signed international conventions that provide for equality or non-discrimination where women are concerned.
Looking at the current level of gender equality in the country, Mary – who is also the director of International Women's Right Action Watch Asia Pacific – said women were still lagging far behind the men in the workforce.
"We need to find out why despite the level of education, women’s participation is only 20 percent compared to men, and women don't get high-level, high-paying jobs," she said, adding that the matter was briefed to the Council of Eminent Persons after attending a briefing session with the council today.
In April, former Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said there was a plan by the BN government to draft a gender equality bill to balance the roles of men and women in the nation’s development, but the bill was postponed.
Meanwhile, WAO acting executive director Yu Ren Chung believed the proposed law which the government was already working on would solve a lot of issues pertaining to discrimination against women.
They include the recent incident where a teenager's right to freedom was allegedly prevented by the police, he said – referring to the case involving lawyer Siti Kasim who was accused of kidnapping her 24-year old client.
Yu also said that during the briefing session, WAO also suggested that the CEP push for the enactment of a comprehensive sexual harassment law.
Explaining further, he said, the current law in the country was inadequate and only covers the workplace and Peninsular Malaysia.
"So we want to follow the global trend in enacting a comprehensive Sexual Harassment Act that will cover the whole of Malaysia, and not just in the workplace, but in the university, school and Parliament," he said.