Friday, April 8, 2011

Secretary's Report

The Executive Committee 2010/2011 elected at the last Annual General Meeting of 29.4.2010 continued with its work on various projects with an aim to increase awareness and boost the membership of the Association of Women Lawyers (“AWL”). What follows are the highlights of the AWL 2010-2011 calendar.

1. 30th June, 2010:
Coffee, Chit-Chat” was the first event organized by AWL to kick-start the year. This informal get-together was held at Old Town White Coffee Shop to provide networking opportunities for AWL members and to raise awareness with the objective of recruiting new members. Approximately 15 persons attended and those present had an enjoyable time.
2. 12th August, 2010:
The next event held focused on a topic that dominated the headlines of the day involving Ms Daphne Iking and Section 498 of the Penal Code.
Ms Honey Tan was invited by AWL to give a talk on “The Enticement of Women, Fact or Fiction?”
This forum was co-organised by AWL with University Tunku Abdul Rahman (“UTAR”) where the venue and refreshments for approximately 60 participants were fully sponsored by the latter. We wish to thank Ms Yogeswary Alahakone for helping AWL organise the event.
This event also received publicity in the Metro section of the Star with the assistance of Datuk Ng Poh Tip. AWL had received many telephone enquiries from members of the public on the event. Overall, the turnout was good with the majority of attendees being students.


(i) Sexual Harassment
3. The AWL Exco Committee members, Ms Meera Samanther and Ms Kiran Dhaliwal have been tasked to peruse through the Sexual Harassment Circular of the Bar Council and also to look at the proposed Sexual Harassment Complaint Mechanism drafted by the Bar Council.
4. AWL is currently identifying the main areas of concerns on the Complaint Mechanism that was adopted sometime in 2007 via their circular no. 54/2007 as the Executive Committee was of the view that the procedures ought to be simplified so as not to duplicate the Disciplinary Board proceedings. This is to reduce unnecessary trauma to the victim and accused. AWL is still in discussions with the relevant person in charge in the Bar Council and will follow up with the proposed simplification of the complaint mechanism. However, the Executive Committee’s main objective is to push for a Sexual Harassment Legislation
(ii) Watching Brief – Shamalar’s Case
5. AWL is monitoring closely the progress of Shamala’s Case as it progresses through the Court of Appeal and Federal Courts as its ultimate decision would have significant impact on the lives of women and children.
Meera Samanther and Jane Pragasam held watching brief for this case on behalf of AWL. Written submissions (on the Convention of the Rights of the Child) prepared by Ms Meera Samanther, have also been filed.


(i) Endorsement of Public Interest Petitions
6. AWL supported the following two petitions:
a) CIVIL SOCIETY PETITION initiated by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Women's Aid Organisation (WAO): “Support the Right to Freedom of Expression in Malaysia”; and
b) “90 Days For Malaysian Mums” a petition seeking 90 days maternity leave for Malaysian mothers.
(ii) SUHAKAM Nomination.
7. Ms Meera Samanther was proposed by AWL as a SUHAKAM member

(iii) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
8. On 20.5.2010, AWL supported the candidacy of Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan for the post of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

(iv) National Consultation with Ms. Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (“SRVAW”), its causes and consequences

9. On 13.1.2011, Ms Goh Siu Lin represented AWL at the National Consultation with Ms Rashida Manjoo in which several other womens’ organisations also took part including inter alia, WAO, AWAM, Pink Triangle, Tenaganita, Sisters in Islam, Perak Women for Women, Foreign Spouses Support Group and Health Equity Initiatives. Ms Meera Samanther, who chaired the Consultation in her capacity as President of WAO, informed that the women’s groups were glad to see a representative from AWL after many years of absence.

10. Siu Lin reported to the AWL Exco that attending the Consulation was an eye-opening experience for her and she benefited tremendously from hearing first hand, of the work carried out by the SRVAW who interestingly, is a volunteer, being only reimbursed for her travelling expenses on her missions.

The SRVAW would first write for permission to visit a country and if invited, whilst there, takes on the role of highlighting to the government of the day, issues of violence against women to seek justice and redress to its victims. Insofar as Malaysia is concerned, the SRVAW has written to the Government of the Malaysia on the plight of the Penan women in Sarawak but has not been invited in her capacity as Special Rapporteur.

The programme of the day included talks given by speakers from various Malaysian NGOs on the following topics:

a) Challenges in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 1994;
b) State Policy: A contributing factor to the vulnerability of foreign spouses;
c) Violence against Trans-women in Malaysia, an overview;
d) Patriachal Interpretation of the Syariah Leading to Violence Against Muslim Women in Malaysia.

At the Consultation, Siu Lin learnt and shared with the AWL Exco about the concept of “intersectionality” where women’s issues ought not to be dealt with in isolation but that such issues intersect with each other, for example, race, religion, social status, trans-women etc. requiring a holistic approach in problem-solving.

This also highlighted to her in a very real way the potential of AWL in making a positive impact on the improvement of individuals in society and Malaysia as a whole. Particularly once AWL succeeds in achieving a strong membership base, it would then be in a better position to leverage on the varied expertise of its members and to work towards legal reforms in a more impactful way.

11. AWL’s future rests in its members and we hope that with your support we can make a difference and achieve our mission and objectives.

Dated 7th April, 2011.

Goh Siu Lin
Hon. Secretary 2010/2011

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