KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — In its report to the United Nations (UN) launched today, a coalition of local NGOs highlighted the continued rampancy of gender inequality and discriminations over religion, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, rights of the Orang Asli, and disabilities here.The report by Comango, which tracks progress in the field of human rights in Malaysia since the last UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), specifically highlighted the country’s dismal performance at the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) review earlier this year.
“The Cedaw Committee’s questions on matters that violate Muslim women’s rights were attacked by government-linked, Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (Macsa) and the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), both of which adhere to the Islamic human rights framework of the Cairo Declaration and therefore, reject gender equality.
“They and government officials claimed that female genital mutilation or cutting, whipping, polygamy, and women’s and girls’ unequal inheritance are non-issues in Malaysia,” said the report launched today.
Comango noted that the UN convention still has not been incorporated into local laws, and there was also no definite timeline to enact a gender equality law.
According to Comango, there is poor participation of women, transgender, or Orang Asli in politics and judiciary, while only 53.6 per cent of women participate in the labour force compared to 80.7 per cent for men.
Other concerns included the lack of legal provision recognising domestic violence among unmarried couples, marital rape, rape aside from penile-vaginal penetration as well as extremely limited protections against sexual harassment.
Comango also noted cases of unilateral conversion of minors and “forced” conversion into Islam as well as racial polarisation including racism among government officials and ministers.
The coalition was also concerned with the non-recognition of Orang Asli customary land rights, which it said has led to many problems including encroachments and the loss of livelihood.
“Despite accepting in full recommendations to alleviate poverty and ensure the economic and social welfare of Indigenous Peoples, Orang Asli communities have not seen any significant changes in terms of access to infrastructure, education, provision of basic amenities and the non-transparency of income-generating programmes,” it said.
Among its recommendations to address the issues were the enactment of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, the punishment of hate speech, the discontinuation of all racial politics, and the transparent introduction of a national harmony law.
The Comango report was prepared following a series of consultation with Putrajaya between 2014 and 2017, following the last UPR on Malaysia in 2013 ― when the country accepted 150 recommendations from its peers.
Held every four and a half years, the UPR is a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mechanism that was established in 2007 to improve the treatment of human rights in all 193 UN member states.
The process involves a three-hour interactive dialogue, where UNHRC members will question Malaysia based on reports prepared by the government, UN agencies, and the stakeholders’ report ― which summarises the report of NGOs both national and international.
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