The Women Ministry that deems women welfare as ‘non-essential’

Source: The Journal

What is it with Malaysia and Doraemon? Our fascination with the Japanese classic character is not exactly what Tun Mahathir envisioned with his ‘Look to the East’ policy of yesteryears. 

More importantly, how can an a robot cat be made the official marriage counsellor for Malaysian spouses? For those of you living under a ‘tempurung’, there was a series of posters made by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development about what women should do during the Movement Control Order as to please their husbands and keep the marriage alive. These include not nagging them, wearing makeup at home and inexplicably, talking in a Doraemon-like voice when speaking to their husbands. 

If you think these advices sounds sexist, well you’re not the only one. In fact, the whole world thinks as such too and has made a mockery of our country thanks to the Women Ministery. From UK’s The Telegraph to Australia’s ABC News, Malaysia made headlines for being a backwards-thinking country with patriarchal views on women. Well, you know you’ve messed up when even Arab News mocks Malaysia for the way we want our women to behave. 

Comparing Perikatan Nasional’s Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to their predecessor from Pakatan Harapan is like night and day. If Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah and Hannah Yeoh made strides for women equality and welfare within the 22 months period in charge of the ministry, then by what we have seen so far from Datuk Seri Rina Harun and Datuk Siti Zailah, it will unfortunately be bringing it backwards of 30 years.    

What’s worse is that these posters and advices produced by the ministry doesn’t look out of place when you see the track record of the two people who helm it. Just a few days into their appointment as heads of the ministries, they chose to suspend the ‘Talian Nur’ hotline during the start of the Movement Control Order, a time when domestic violence and child abuse could be at its peak due to everyone having to stay indoors for a long period of time. The reason given for the suspension was that the service that caters to women and children welfare was “non-essential” and only after receiving backlash did they overturn the decision and return the services of the hotline. 

During the rise of Covid-19 cases to the point that airlines are asking their staff to take unpaid leaves, instead of figuring out a way to help the tens of thousands of women whose livelihood were jeopardized, the Deputy Women Minister instead put her focus on what these women wear. Don’t get me started on how she once called child marriage as a ‘blessing’ during a Parliamentary debate.

Seriously, don’t this current government have any credible women leaders in their ranks? From having the first deputy Prime Minister in Malaysian history to the worst women representation in the ruling coalition in more than 30 years, where did it all go wrong in our fight for gender equality?

As things stand, this Perikatan Nasional’s coalition is not only overwhelmingly monoethnic, but androcentric too. 

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