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Women in Malaysia

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Women in Malaysia

Women in Malaysia
Modern-day Malaysian women.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.256 (2012)
Rank 42nd
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 29 (2010)
Women in parliament 13.2% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 66.0% (2010)
Women in labour force 43.8% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6518 (2013)
Rank 102nd out of 136

Women in Malaysia receives support from the Malaysian government concerning their rights to advance, to make decisions, to health, education and social welfare, and to the removal of legal obstacles. The Malaysian government has ensured these factors through the establishment of Ministry of National Unity and Social Development in 1997 (formerly known in 1993 as Women's Affairs Secretariat or HAWA). This was followed by the formation of the Women's Affairs Ministry in 2001 to recognise the roles and contributions of Malaysian women.

47% of Malaysian women are in the workforce.[2]


  • Women's rights 1
    • Sharia courts 1.1
    • Sexual harassment 1.2
  • Criticism of women's status in Malaysia 2
  • Advocacy groups 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Women's rights

After the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia in 2009, the government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2010, although with certain reservations.[3] The punishment for rape in Malaysia is a prison term of up to 30 years, plus caning and a fine. The law against rape is enforced effectively. Since 2007, marital rape has also been a crime.

There are crisis centres at many government hospitals where victims can report acts of rape and domestic abuse, but owing to cultural attitudes and other factors about 90 percent of rape victims remain silent. Domestic abuse cases are often complicated, moreover, by provisions of sharia law that forbid wives to disobey their husbands. Medical treatment for women is adequate, including pre- and postpartum care.

Sharia courts

Women are discriminated against in sharia courts, especially in family-law matters. Sharia allows men to have multiple wives and favours males in inheritance cases. Non-Muslim women, and Muslim women in four states, enjoy equal parental rights. There is employment discrimination against women. In Kedah State, women performers can appear only before female audiences.[4]

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is common, and since 2010 trains on the Malaysian Railway have included pink-coloured women-only cars as a meant of cutting down on it.[5] There are also women-only buses in Kuala Lumpur since 2010.[5] In 2011, the government launched a women-only taxi service in the greater Kuala Lumpur area.[6] The taxis have women drivers, and operate on an on-call basis.[6]

Criticism of women's status in Malaysia

In 2006, Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister and an active campaigner for women's rights, described the status of Muslim women in Malaysia as similar to that of Black South Africans under apartheid.[7][8]

Mahathir's remarks were made in response to a new Islamic law that enables men to divorce or take up to four wives. The law also granted husbands more authority over their wives' property.[7] Conservative groups such as the Malaysian Muslim Professionals Forum criticised her comments for insulting Sharia and undermining the prominent role of women in Malaysia compared to other Muslim and/or east Asian countries.[7]

Advocacy groups

See also



  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "2010 Human Rights Report: Malaysia". US Department of State. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Women only buses aim to halt sex harassment", MSNBC, 12/2/2010.
  6. ^ a b "Malaysia launches women-only taxis, hoping to reduce number of rape and robbery cases", Al Arabiya News, Nov 27, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Kent, Jonathan (11 March 2006). "Malaysia 'apartheid' row deepens". BBC News. 
  8. ^ Kent, Jonathan (8 March 2006). "'"Malaysia women 'suffer apartheid. BBC News. 

Further reading

  • Ahmad, Aminah. Women in Malaysia, Country Briefing Paper, December 1998, 81 pages
  • Azizah, Wan. Women in Politics: Reflections from Malaysia, Case Study, 2002, 5 pages

External links

  • National Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Malaysia
  • Women's Organisations Malaysia
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