Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Press Release - Peaceful Assembly Bill

23rd November, 2011

This Bill goes against the very grain of our Constitution, which provides for a basic right of freedom of assembly . We recognize that there can never be absolute freedom and for those reasons we have the Penal Code for disorderly behavior.

However this Peaceful Assembly Bill restricts our rights even further:

1. The very nature of street protests are that it is spontaneous and as such people need to voice out when their rights have been violated but that right has been taken away.

2. First we had the University & Colleges Act that restricted students in participating in demonstrations and voicing their concerns. Now to further restrict them, children who are themselves the best advocates in voicing what they want for their future, are added to the list of restrictions. This is also a violation under the Children's Rights Convention, an international treaty that Malaysia ratified and promised to adhere to.

Obviously the PM's words are meaningless. We have been promised Reforms in getting rid of the ISA and what do we get, more restrictions!! The Police is the only group whose powers are being increased by this Bill and the Police Act but the peoples power keeps getting diminished. Najib has been insincere in his stand for a better Malaysia and voters at the next General Election will make their stand known.

Meera Samanther
Association of Women Lawyers

Message from the President (Survey Project)

Dear Members,

I wish to brief all of you on a project that AWL and the BAR will be undertaking next year. It is a project to conduct a survey to determine the professional standing of women at the BAR.

In recent discussions with some of the younger female lawyers, some of them have shared with us that they have experienced sexual harassment and intimidation. However it came to light that many of the lawyers, I believe are also unaware of the Sexual Harrassment Complaints mechanism that the BAR had implemented, which was drafted by a member of AWL also, Simrin Gill.

In view of the lack of awareness of the existence of this mechanism and that there have not been any reported cases , the Executive Committee considered conducting a survey initially in order to get empirical evidence of sexual harassment cases rather them just having anecdotal evidence. However after much thought, it was finally decided that a survey of such a nature would not probably get many people coming forth to be part of this survey .

I was in discussion with a member of AWL, Sheena Gurbakash and we discussed this at length. We finally decided that a survey should be conducted to determine the professional development of women lawyers only in KL and Selangor. The aim of this survey will help us understand the working conditions, the professional challenges and personal challenges women lawyers face vis a vis male lawyers. Women lawyers make up nearly 48% of the BAR and we all have a stake in it. We all know that the level playing field is not equal between male and female lawyers and as such the BAR needs to look into the professional development of women lawyers.

Around September, Sheena and I met up with a survey company, Merdeka Survey. We have had several meetings with them and they have in their proposal indicated that that it will cost around RM50,000.00 Sheena Gurbakash, Goh Siu Lin (Secretary) and I had a meeting with the President, Vice President and Treasurerof the BAR last Thursday (17th November, 2011) and had conveyed our proposal . All three (3) of them are very keen to work with us on this project and have given their commitment knowing the difficulties and challenges many women lawyers face. The BAR and AWL will be writing together to the various Funders on this project and we will also seek monies from the BAR on this. In view of the fact that the year is coming to an end, we realistically are of the view that this survey can only take off the ground next year in March, April or May after the CNY and after the new line up for the BAR Council members .

A brief outline of the survey:

Aims of the survey:

a) Baseline to ascertain working conditions of women lawyers

While it is a fundamental basis of the profession, that all lawyers are equal before the courts, it is also a reality of life that “some are more equal than others” by virtue of exposure, experience, mentoring, ability and opportunity to network. To date, no in-depth or reliable data has been collected about working conditions in the profession. We believe that a survey of this nature will produce valuable data for the profession as a whole about fundamental issues like remuneration, working hours, leave and holidays, and specialisation.

b) Discriminatory conditions

It is a matter of some concern that AWL and its members have in the course of networking with women lawyers received anecdotal evidence of professional discrimination on the basis of gender as well as actual accounts of sexual intimidation and harassment. We believe that this survey will collect verifiable data about the extent of such discrimination and or harassment and intimidation and highlight areas for both AWL and the Bar to work together to redress and/or create channels for complaint about such discriminatory conditions.

c) Basis for development of programmes for the benefit of women lawyers

We believe that the data collected in this survey will be invaluable in the creation of programmes and projects that will address issues faced by women lawyers as well as provide the basis for professional development for both women coming into the profession as well as those currently in practise.


Based on discussion with the research company we are advised that the methodology for the survey will be as follows:

a) By phone interview to be conducted on not less than 300 lawyers (OF BOTH GENDERS) within the designated area of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Face to face interviews, online and email self-completion questionnaires will also be implemented.

b) Best efforts to ensure that the resulting sample of lawyers in the survey would be representative of the members of the Bar within the two jurisdictions along the basis of gender, location, type of legal profession and years called to the Bar.

c) Not more than 25 mostly close-ended questions in the survey instrument. In addition, questions of the respondent profile would be asked (e.g. gender, ethnicity, age, religion, type of legal work and marital status)

Survey Timeline:

Implementation of the project will be carried out in phases. Total duration will be 16-18 weeks (4½ months) depending on the approach taken as follows:

Activities Survey Duration
•Preparation of questionnaire,
translations, training of interviewers
•Pre-testing of questionnaire 3 weeks

•Implementation of survey
• Data processing and statistical analysis 10-12 weeks

•Preparation of technical report and summary statistics report
•Delivery of final results 3 weeks

Total time required 16-18 weeks

Role of the Bar Council in this Survey:

This is a pioneer study that will have ground-breaking implications not just for the Malaysian Bar but for professional organisations in Malaysia as a whole, and as such we believe that the involvement of the Bar Council in the undertaking of this survey is essential.

We believe that it is in the interests of the Bar Council to be aware and informed of the working conditions and issues facing lawyers and be aware of gender issues within the Bar.

We believe the an opportunity to study the databases and information collated about the profession will be revealing in terms of the development and growth of the profession as a whole.


AWL (Nov 2011)