Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Najib: Government to hasten effort to make changes to pro-women legislation

Pro-women legislation is to be given due attention and there will not be a repeat of waiting at least seven years for a Bill to be passed, as what happened with the Domestic Violence Act.

“I guarantee you, for something good, it will not take seven years,” Datuk Seri Najib Razak said at the National Council of Women's Organisations (NCWO) golden jubilee celebrations here yesterday.

The Prime Minister assured that the Government would hasten effort to make changes to legislation, regulations, practices and thinking that obstructed the progress of women.

Najib, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, invited NCWO to come up with a working paper on advancing the cause of women.

NCWO president Tan Sri Prof Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin said the council would send an updated version of a working paper to Najib as soon as possible.

She stressed the need for changes for women to be made speedily.

NCWO had handed over a memorandum of the draft law on domestic violence in 1987 but it was only passed by Parliament in 1994 and implemented in 1996, she noted.

Dr Sharifah said laws, policies, structures and administrative processes needed to be reviewed and changed so that women would no longer face discrimination.

“There is still a lack of gender sensitivity in the public, private and political sectors,” she said.

Among other things, she said, NCWO had wanted a law on sexual harassment instead of just a code of conduct for institutions as well as judges to implement the minimum five years imprisonment for rapists.

A member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Yasmeen Shariff, said NCWO had also been pushing for a better family court with a full family support system with welfare assistance and counselling and mediation rooms.

NCWO deputy president Datuk R. Gurusamy said that children should be made aware of the law on statutory rape through education, so that they do not run foul of the law or be taken advantage of.

In her speech, Sharifah said there was also a need to narrow the income gap between men and women as 60% of the lowest income female earners earned below RM3,000 a month.

Najib agreed that this had to be looked into especially on how women could enhance their skills and value-add them in an organisation.

Ivy Josiah, the Women's Aid Organisation executive director, meanwhile recalled that lobbying for the Domestic Violence Act actually started in 1985.

“We have already highlighted all the issues in our previous reports to the Government. Now that the Prime Minister has given an undertaking on pro-women legislation, we can all get cracking,” she added


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