New Straits Times
4 Mei 2008
Women's groups express outrage
|National Council for Women’s Organisations deputy president Faridah Khalid (left) and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen|
KUALA LUMPUR: Regressive. Unfair. Biased.
These were some of the words used to describe the proposal by the Foreign Ministry that women leaving the country alone be required to have declarations from parents or employers stating the reason for their travels.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said yesterday he had submitted a proposal to the cabinet.
The proposal drew flak from non-governmental and women's organisations, with their representatives making clear their outrage.
National Council for Women's Organisations Malaysia (NCWO) deputy president Faridah Khalid called the proposal "backward and unfair".
"This is an infringement of our rights," she said.
"We're the victims and now you're creating more problems.
"Why must you put more restrictions on women?
"We have worked hard over the years to get to this level."
Faridah said the government should think it out properly before taking such measures.
"Sometimes, ministers make suggestions and decisions in haste," she said.
Sisters in Islam programme adviser Norhayati Kaprawi saw the proposal as an "over-reaction" to a problem which could be tackled in a different way.
"It's not only a violation of women's rights but also a violation of human rights," she said.
Norhayati said the proposal contradicts the concept of Islam Hadhari, which the government has been advocating.
"Why is the proposal directed only at women when there have been many cases which involved men?
"I'm shocked that a former deputy law minister is coming up with such a suggestion."
Both Faridah and Norhayati felt that awareness and education were the best ways to deal with the issue.
Tenaganita programme officer S. Florida said such a policy would not solve the real problem.
"We are only pushing the issue under the carpet and not recognising trans-border cri-mes where women are being used as easy targets, which is equitable to forced labour or even prostitution."
Faridah said the only way to handle the problem was through the implementation of the anti-trafficking law and international co-operation especially on enforcement.
She said the victims should not be blamed as the bigger culprits were the traffickers and the men behind the syndicates.
"Besides, thousands of people travel daily.
"Who is going to scrutinise the declaration as anyone can forge their parents signature? It is just not practical."
Malaysian Indian Businessmen Association president P. Sivakumar said the government should target the syndicates and clean up the system instead of focusing on the victims.
"Go all out to attack the syndicate and unscrupulous agents who try to smuggle drugs.
"Wipe them out, for as long as these people are around, they will entice more women.
"More awareness is needed to curb the problem."
Sivakumar said the declaration was all right for minors travelling alone but it cannot apply to adults as it infringes on their freedom and rights.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said she would have to study the matter further.
"I will have to speak to him (Rais) and also get feedback from the NGOs," she said.
Dr Ng added that from a personal viewpoint, she agreed that it was an infringement on women's rights, but added that there were always two sides to a coin and one needed to look at the bigger picture.
MIC Puteri chief Usha Nanthini said the proposal was too vague, adding that there was a need for finer details and practicality to be looked into.
She said, however, that the proposal was generally good as it took into account the safety of Malaysian women.