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fz.com - Women groups hold Najib to his promise (6 February 2013)
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6 February 2013

Women groups hold Najib to his promise

by Stephanie Sta Maria



PETALING JAYA (Feb 5): The Joint Action Group (JAG) for Gender Equality is pushing for a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the status of 22 memorandums on reform and action that it has submitted to the government over the past decade.

At a press conference today, representatives of three of the nine women's groups that make up JAG pointed out that Najib had promised to give pro-women legislation due attention during his speech at the National Council of Women's Organisations golden jubilee celebrations on Jan 30.

Najib had also assured that there would not be a repeat of the seven-year wait for a bill to be passed, as in the case of the Domestic Violence Act. But Sisters In Islam (SIS) acting executive director, Ratna Osman, said that their call for amendments to the Islamic Family Law (IFL) dates back to 1996.

She reminded the government that members of the Syariah Community Meeting had already agreed to the amendments in 2006.

"In February 2009, we were told that the amendments to the IFL statutes would soon be tabled in Parliament," Ratna said. "But then these amendment bills were withdrawn because the Conference of Rulers wanted time to consult their respective state religious councils.

"We have not heard any updates on their status since then. It has remained hanging and we want the government to look into this," she said.

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy officer Yu Ren Chung, meanwhile, highlighted WAO's push for a wider scope under the Domestic Violence Act to cover intimate partnerships, to harmonise it with all relevant pieces of criminal justice legislation, and to standardise institutionalised support for survivors of domestic violence.

All Women's Action Society (AWAM) senior programme officer Lee Wei San added that they wanted the rape law amended to include rape with an object and marital rape, as well as comprehensive laws on sexual harassment.

When asked if JAG had ever had a meeting with Najib before, Ratna said no but added that they had had meetings with his predecessor, Tun Abdullah Badawi and former minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil.

"But we've never had one with Najib, not even in his capacity as the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development," she said.

Ratna also pointed out that the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women would take place on March 4 and Malaysia was among the elected nations to be involved in this event.

"This year's theme is Prevention of Violence Against Women and if the government makes progress on our recommended amendments, then Najib will have something good to report to the commission," she said.

"In 2008, JAG held our 'Kotakan Kata!' campaign where we called for elected government representatives to fulfill election promises to end gender-based discrimination and uphold women's rights. Today we are saying 'Sekali Lagi, Kotakan Kata!' as we stand at the cusp of a general election."

JAG said that it would give the new ruling government three months after coming into power to get moving on the amendments and memorandums.

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