MEDIA STATEMENT, 5 NOV : Where is the Government’s Commitment to Women in Workforce Now?
MACSA repeats its past demands for the Government to materialize its pledge for greater protection towards the employees in private sectors. It is pertinent now more than ever considering the acknowledgement by the Ministry of Human Resource that there is a huge gap within our laws, which has failed to provide the necessary protection for pregnant women seeking employment.
Amend the Employment Act 1955
The promise for a comprehensive amendment to our Employment Act 1955 [Act 265] must be honoured and addressed by the Government to ensure that women are neither discriminated against by reason of their marital status nor for their religious belief nor for their ethnicity. The Malaysian Government has taken a bold move in declaring its commitment for inclusivity but this means nothing if women’s rights in Malaysia is still seen as a mere frill.
With only 55.2% women’s participation in the national workforce recorded in 2018, the nation must rethink its commitment for greater women’s participation and representation in our country’s capital and wealth distribution. Often times, private employees have used the marital status of women job-seekers to justify their preference to employ male workers over female workers. Likewise for the practice of preferring job-seekers who are not donning hijab over those who opt to do so. These discriminatory trends are not only a cogent discriminatory practice towards female job-seekers, but more importantly is a disservice to the nation’s aspiration in achieving high income status. This also includes full maternity leave for female doctors and nurses undergoing specialists and postbasic trainings. Extended leave to nurse their babies should also not be the reason to penalize them by disqualifying them from applying for specialisation training.
In fulfilling its commitment to international standards, MACSA implores the Government to adopt the guidelines under the International Labour Organization (ILO). In particular the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), wherein under Article 9 has prohibited a test for pregnancy when a woman is applying for employment as well as under Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) that has prohibited any acts that nullify equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation.
Comprehensive Stand-Alone Statute on Sexual Harassment
MACSA has been following the Government’s moves to address reports and demands for stricter employment policies to address sexual harassment in workplace. With the drafting processes for a standalone statute to address the offence in progress, the Government has fulfilled some of its commitments to protect the safety of women at the office.
However, this must be followed up closely by ensuring any introduction of a new statute is given full force of the law. This can only be done when the Government takes steps to harmonize the new laws with the existing laws, having due regard that the priorities of some laws must be seen to take precedence over the others.
In moving forward as a nation, the contribution of women must be given due recognition and be boosted to ensure that women can equally participate in our nation building processes as well as in the distribution of our country’s wealth.
JOINT STATEMENT BY:
Hj. Lukman Sheriff Alias
President, Malaysian Lawyers Circle
Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
President, International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ)
The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA) is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process