Malaysian women MPs accuse male colleagues of being sexist

February 24th, 2009 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 24 (IANS) Women members of the Malaysian parliament have submitted a memorandum to the presiding officers, complaining of sexist remarks against them by male members in the two houses.
Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, conceding that “maybe men are not sensitive enough to women”, suggested appointing a woman deputy speaker. He also promised to write to the heads of various parties, asking them not to nominate the offenders to parliament in the next election.

Among the alleged offenders is ethnic Indian leader and former minister S. Samy Vellu, who once said: “A woman 50 years ago, she looks beautiful, but today she won’t look so beautiful.”

He also said: “Toilets are like new brides after they are completed. After some time, they get a bit spoiled. Even if you do not use them frequently, you need someone to clean them every 25 minutes.”

Vellu, president of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) lost his ninth re-election bid in last year’s general election.

According to the memorandum, Vellu’s long-time colleague Mohamed Aziz said: “It is unusual for women’s issues to be touched (raised) by men… but women are supposed to be touched by men.”

Abdul Fatah Harun, who represents the Islamist party PAS, had once claimed that most single mothers were divorced as they were “gatal” (flirtatious) and therefore would not be pitied by society.

“Sometimes, for reasons of entrapment, she lodges a report that she had been raped. If she is a virgin, it would have been OK, we can find out. But if she is not, how can we prove it was rape or otherwise?” MP Badruddin Amiruldin was quoted as saying in the memorandum.

Amiruldin also used the phrase “like a menopausal woman” in references to the debate of another male MP.

MPs Idris Haron, Mohammed Hayati Othman and Salahuddin Ayub claimed the sexy uniforms of female Malaysia Airlines System cabin staff would arouse male passengers.

The memorandum was submitted to the speaker and senate president Abdul Hamid Pawanteh by Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who heads the Wanita (women’s front) of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the New Straits Times reported Tuesday.

Suggesting that the Malaysian parliament appoint a woman deputy speaker, Mulia said: “Britain had a female speaker. It may not guarantee the end of the problem but at least it is a start.”

Mulia noted, however, that members had generally been well-behaved in recent meetings.

Chew said she was happy with the response of the two presiding officers.

“I’m happy they were open-minded. We had a very good dialogue,” said Chew.

Chew said they had agreed to discuss the recommendations in the memorandum at their respective house standing committee meetings. The committee determines rules and regulations for proceedings.

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