The Women’s Agenda for Change (WAC) is spearheading a concerted effort to address the problem of disrespect and gender insensitivity towards women parliamentarians, including the kind of language that is used in the parliament such as lewd and derogatory remarks.
Equally praiseworthy is the offer by the women’s groups to conduct gender-sensitisation courses to MPs, so that Malaysian parliamentarians whether from the ruling and opposition can be exemplars of gender sensitivity and in the command of issues affecting women.
The women coalition should start with sensitisation courses for Barisan Nasional women MPs so that they could cross party lines to protest against male chauvinism, disrespect and gender insensitivity towards women MPs.
It is unfortunate that in the past two years, it was invariably the Opposition MPs who protested against gender insensitivity and sexist remarks by certain Barisan Nasional MPs, with the three DAP women MPs - Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam), Teresa Kok (Seputeh) and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah) as the chief targets, while Barisan Nasional women MPs refused to take a strong stand to protest even when they were themselves the target of such insensitivity.
The WAC, which will be looking through the Hansards of previous parliamentary sittings to gather information on past examples of discriminatory remarks, should hold an inquiry and invite the Barisan Nasional women MPs to explain why they had not objected to such gender-insensitive remarks.
It is hoped that the WAC’s monitoring action, starting from the next parliamentary session in March, with a report at the end of the year to document instances of gender discrimination under various categories, including the use of lewd language, treatment of gender-related issues, and the treatment of women MPs, will itself have a salutary effect in triggering a change in gender attitudes in Parliament and erode the male chauvinism of Malaysian MPs.