Malaysian women going abroad need family consent

May 4th, 2008 - 4:17 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 4 (IANS) Malaysian women intending to travel abroad alone may need family consent as per a government proposal that seeks to prevent them from being used by crime syndicates operating in different countries including India. Women leaders and non governmental organisations (NGOs) have called it “regressive, unfair and biased”, the New Straits Times said Sunday.

The government says it wants to prevent women from being used as “drug mules” by international syndicates.

It says Malaysia is a prime target for smuggling drugs to other countries including Europe.

Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said Saturday his ministry and the home ministry feel the move is necessary and a proposal for this has been submitted to the cabinet.

The move comes following several incidents where women were used to smuggle drugs overseas.

Out of 119 cases of Malaysian women hauled up before foreign courts, 90 percent were linked to drugs, said Yatim.

A vast majority of these women are aged between 21 and 27, and are believed to have been duped or forced into being “mules” for the drug syndicates.

It is learnt that the offences were committed in various countries including China, Singapore, Malta, Brazil, Peru, Taiwan, Venezuela, India, Spain and Portugal.

“Last night, my ministry, together with the home ministry, has jointly forwarded a report to the cabinet on the matter.

“Both ministries agreed that factors like family, religion, immigration laws and preventive measures need to be considered before a Malaysian woman goes abroad alone,” Rais told the media.

On the proposed requirement for family consent, he said it would enable the woman’s family to monitor her departure and serve as a preventive measure against her being duped by international drug syndicates, official news agency Bernama reported.

“I have submitted this proposal to the cabinet and both the foreign and home ministries feel this is necessary. Many of these women (who travel alone) leave the country on the pretext of work or to attend courses and seminars.

“With this declaration, we will know for sure where and for what she is travelling overseas,” said Yatim.

He said those detained were subject to the laws of those countries and Malaysian authorities had to act within their jurisdiction when dealing with such cases.

“We are working closely with the home ministry and Interpol to offer any possible assistance to these people. But, there is only so much we can do,” the minister said.

Women’s groups point out that Malaysians are also being imprisoned for various others crimes including credit card fraud, immigration offences and even human trafficking.

National Council for Women’s Organisations Malaysia deputy president Faridah Khalid called the proposal “backward and unfair”.

“This is an infringement of our rights. We’re the victims and now you’re creating more problems. Why must you put more restrictions on women?” she asked.

Sisters in Islam programme adviser Norhayati Kaprawi saw the proposal as an “over-reaction” to a problem that could be tackled in a different way.

“It’s not only a violation of women’s rights but also a violation of human rights,” she said.

Malaysian Indian Businessmen Association president P. Sivakumar said the government should target the syndicates and clean up the system instead of focusing on the victims.

“Go all out to attack the syndicate and unscrupulous agents who try to smuggle drugs. Wipe them out, for as long as these people are around, they will entice more women. More awareness is needed to curb the problem.”

Sivakumar said the declaration was all right for minors travelling alone but it cannot apply to adults as it infringes on their freedom and rights.

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