Put a Stop to Gender Discrimination in Malaysia

By Farah Aleeya binti Haizam

Gender discrimination is a social issue that is continuously happening in society. It happens when men or women receive unequal access and unfair treatment in relation to a particular right – this happens mostly to women. According to Peterson and Morgan (1995), the gender wage gap is one of the examples of workplace discrimination that harms women’s earnings and opportunities. According to the Maine Employee Rights Group, the most unlawful gender inequality cases are found in sexual harassment and women’s occupation. It shows that women’s involvement and protection in public life is extremely limited and improvements are needed.

Gender discrimination is relevant to Sustainable Development Goal 5 which refers to ‘Gender Equality’. This goal significantly addresses the rights of every individual especially women to should have the opportunity and the right to have a free life. Gender equality is about putting a stop to all forms of prejudice, violence, abuse, underestimation of education, and poverty that individuals have to face because of their gender. Besides, SDG5, the gender discrimination issue is also related to ‘Goal 4: Quality education. SDG4 refers to uplifting the barriers that disproportionately affect women’s access to education by limiting it. 

According to the Independent Polling System of Society (IPSOS) ‘The biggest inequality issue for women in Malaysia is sexual harassment with 51% half of them believing that it is the number one issue.’ This has been the case until today, but many people underestimate its occurrence and take this matter lightly, and sometimes ignore it which is the worst-case scenario. In 2019, an allegation from All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) stated that several women contacted the police to report sexual harassment complaints against an individual, but the police ignored these and did nothing to help or act on them. Imagine how scary the world would be when individuals cannot even get protection because no one is willing to help and trust them. 

Due to the inaction of the authorities, victims refuse to tell or report sexual harassment incidents to the police or others because it appears that nothing materializes from the complaints. In view of this, they would rather keep the traumatic experience to themselves and suffer from mental health problems. For instance, they will face a difficult time socializing with people, feel depressed, anxious, and might face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The consequences result in the violation of the women’s right to equality because they have to face being treated badly. Besides, there are also arguments that being a woman puts them at a higher risk for sexual harassment. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) conducted a survey asking 35 high school girl students if they were ever harassed and more than 60% claimed that they were sexually harassed through verbal channels; including catcalling, sexual satires, and jokes. However, the girls targeted were wearing scarfs, loose uniforms, and modest apparel. The incidents were the result of evil men who were not able to regulate their bad behaviours even to those modestly dressed, which is appalling.  

In addition, women also face gender discrimination in the workplace. A person’s gender influences the likelihood of them receiving biased treatment, which can act as a barrier to equal opportunities, fair compensation, and recognition. For instance, women are being questioned about their abilities in performing certain works and have had their job positions trivialised. Further, men often believe themselves to be in a position of superiority over women and thus impose various restrictions on women. Women are also discriminated in terms of their access to the property and the allowances that women should be entitled to. For Pokharel (2008), in the framework of education, girls are also restricted from getting quality education because they are forced to marry at a young age and are prejudiced against getting admission to school due to the fact that the family prioritises the education of the son.

This situation should not remain, we have to make a change as it creates injustices towards the rights of men and women. Therefore, one of the ways to cope is by dismantling the awareness campaign of gender equality in the media. The media can connect people at large and create awareness of an issue to the public easily. Furthermore, gender discrimination can be eradicated through education. Schools and institutions should instil awareness and practices of gender equality in their learning objectives and the curricula. The government should also reinforce policymaking, introduce programmes to prioritize the concerns of equal rights and reinvestigate thoroughly the performance of the authority in protecting the rights of people. Therefore, through these initiatives, it should make women feel safe as people are aware of the issue and it will slowly eliminate bias and stereotypes in relation to gender as they realize the importance of upholding rights of humans.

In a nutshell, the issue of gender equality is a lifetime concern. People should not put a blind eye and must do something to change the normalization of gender discrimination in order to advocate the rights of humans in their life. Both men and women are essential to the survival of humanity, and we rely on one another in equal measure. People should stop the practices that uphold gender discrimination and disparity so that this issue will not sustain in the society’s context. ***

(Farah Aleeya binti Haizam is a student from Kulliyyah of Economic and Management Sciences (KENMS). The article is part of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ course. The views expressed here are those of the writer/author and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday,)

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