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Aljazeera.net
5 Mei 2008

Anger at Malaysia women travel curb

Women's groups have condemned the plan as "patronising" and out of step with the times [EPA]

Women's groups in Malaysia have reacted with outrage over a senior official's proposal to require women travelling overseas alone to carry written consent for their journeys from their families or employers.

The proposal, put forward by Malaysia's foreign minister, Rais Yatim, was condemned by one group as "condescending" and a step backwards.

Raid mooted the plan as a way of responding to a string of drug trafficking cases involving Malaysian women who were travelling alone.

The women are believed to have been targetted by international syndicates for use as so-called "drug mules". government officials say.

The proposed measure is to ensure that a woman's family would "monitor her departure and serve as a preventive measure against being duped [by traffickers]", Malaysia's national news agency Bernama said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Ivy Josiah, executive director of Malaysia's Women's Aid Organisation, said the suggestion was "very alarming" and a "sad reflection of the paternalistic values of our society".

'Condescending'

"The underlying assumption here is that women are weak and incompetent. It is a condescending idea and an unfair approach towards protecting women," she said on Monday.

"The focus should be on creating awareness on the dangers of drug trafficking instead of singling out women and restricting their movement."

Josiah said the government should instead look at a long-term plan that involves empowering women and educating men "because as we know crimes are largely perpetrated by men".

Rais was quoted at the weekend as saying that the idea was prompted by a review of criminal cases involving Malaysians abroad.

Rais said the idea was to protect women from drug traffickers [Reuters]

 

He told Bernama that of the 119 cases of Malaysians detained in various countries for drug-related offences, 90 per cent were women and within the 21-27 age group.

"It's a very patronising way of protecting women, and a bit too childish in many ways"
Masjaliza Hamzah, Sisters in Islam

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Masjaliza Hamzah, programme manager at advocacy group Sisters in Islam, said the proposal in effect curtailed women's movements.

"It is ridiculous and untenable in this day and age when women, and single women at that, are being elected ministers and running the country's finances," she said.

Travel advisory

A better idea would be to issue a general travel advisory for people to know what is in their luggage and to keep an eye on their belongings at all times, she said.

"It's a very patronising way of protecting women, and a bit too childish in many ways," she said.

"We're adults and a lot of women travel for work nowadays. Such a requirement will cause a lot of hassle."

Masjaliza also questioned the absence of official statistics for men who were detained abroad for drug-related offences.

Besides women's groups, the proposal was also criticised by another government minister who said it was an infringement on women's rights.

Ng Yen Yen, Malaysia's minister for women, family and community development, was quoted in The Star newspaper as saying that identifying the syndicates and understanding why and what kind of women were being lured into drug trafficking were equally important.