Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Legal Literacy Programme at HELP University

Left to Right: Ann Chuah, Vicky Alahakone, Meera Samanther, Goh Siu Lin, Marisa Regina
Back row: Jane Pragasam, Tham Hui Ying
The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) was selected by NCWO to conduct a legal literacy programme for the 1st year law students of HELP University. The one day affair took place last Friday (25th May, 2012) from 11am to 6pm at HELP University's auditorium.

The AWL team was mobilised and the programme outline consisted of the followig topics:

a) Sex and Gender (Meera Samanther);

b) Violence against Women (Ann Chuah);

c) Sexual Harassment (Goh Siu Lin and Jane Pragasam);

d) Domestic Violence (Vicky Alahakone and Tham Hui Ying);

e) Feminist's Perspective of Law (Meera Samanther).

For her session on "Sex and Gender", Meera organised 2 groups of students
and directed them to list down the characteristics of a male and female

The objective of this exercise is to break the stereotypes we all have in our minds about men and women. Women could also possess "male" characteristics. For example, women could be arrogant, sexist, ambitious, strong, driven whereas men also have "female" characteristics such as, be caring, gentle, nurturing etc.

Compartmentalising women and men into traditional stereotypes, socialises us to behave a certain way.
If women are perceived as weak, this may sometimes lead to acts of violence against women being committed. What we were trying to do was to break entrenched cultural norms and perceptions about women and say that women too can be powerful, articulate, strong etc.

Ann and her session on "Violence Against Women".

Promoting AWL.
Jane Pragasam and Goh Siu Lin jointly delivered a
presentation on "Sexual Harassment".

Our target was to convey the issues of Sexual Harassment ("SH") in the most easily digestible form. 

We began by a massive group massage as you can see in the photograph below. Everyone laughed and giggled, thinking it was a big joke.

We then asked, "Who enjoyed the massage?"... huge show of hands.
"Who didn't"?? - two to three hands shot up.
"If you didn't, why didn't you say so?"

This exercise was to illustrate one point. SH is SUBJECTIVE. Whether it is offensive or welcome is to be seen from the perspective of the recipient of the unwanted attention.

The Domestic Violence session was interactive.
Posted by Picasa
Vicky's idea was brilliant. She illustrated in a very powerful way, three common examples faced by DV victims.

Domestic Violence Session presented by Vicky Alahakone and Tham Hui Ying

The students were given three scenarios and accompanying scripts. They were requested to read out their respective lines.

A short post-mortem would follow the skit and the students were asked to identify what forms of DV was taking place. Eg:

a) Physical;

b) Sexual;

c) Financial;

d) Psychological.

The students were taught the typical dynamics which occur in the cycle of violence of Domestic Violence.

The 1st year law students of HELP University with lecturers and the AWL team, at the end of the programme.

It was a fun and enriching experience for the AWL team and we hope to be able to conduct similar programmes for other educational establishments to educate and empower their students of their rights.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who’s next Nazri, docs and architects?

Extracted from Malaysia Today "Who's Next?"
G Vinod
 | May 19, 2012
Two lawyers' associations give the law academy proposal the thumbs down while another backs the minister.

PETALING JAYA: The proposal to form a law academy has drawn flak, with one lawyers’ association asking if the government will clamp down on other professional bodies as well.

Furthermore, Association of Women Lawyers president S Meera said the move would dilute and usurp the Malaysian Bar’s independence. She added that the government should learn to work with the Bar Council to probe the abuses that took place during the Bersih 3.0 rally instead of trying to control the legal fraternity. “So will the government start controlling the medical, architecture and accounting fraternities should they voice an opinion which is against the government?” she asked. The move, she added, would also prevent members of the Bar from upholding justice as enshrined in Section 42 of the Legal Profession’s Act. Meera also dismissed the claim that the Bar Council was pro-opposition, saying it was merely a media perception. “The Bar Council is a tool for dispensing justice… Nothing more,” she added.

Similarly, the Syarie Lawyers’ Association dismissed the proposal by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz as an empty threat. Its adviser Muhamad Burok said the government made similar announcements in the past and even took it to Parliament. “Look what happened? Nothing!” he told FMT. “As for Nazri, ‘dia nak gempak aje lah’ (he is just issuing empty threats).”

‘Don’t blame the Bar Council’
Several lawyers had criticised the Bar Council and the Malaysian Bar over the resolutions passed during its extraordinary general meeting last week, accusing them of being opposition tools. The resolutions condemned the police for using excessive force during the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28.

Nazri, in his criticism against the Bar, said the Bar Council should just dissolve itself for being unprofessional in its conduct.

However, Muhamad Burok said the Bar Council was set up by an act of Parliament and the Legal Professions Act 1976 defined its powers. He also said that no matter how many associations the government sets up, practising lawyers in the country must register themselves with the Bar Council as stipulated by law. “And the government wants to set up another one? Impossible!” he added.
On lawyers who were critical of the Bar Council, he said they could always choose to depose their leadership during the annual general meetings. “Just don’t blame the council for the decisions. Besides, the Bar Council president can only hold his post for a maximum of two terms, unlike some political parties that is holding power for over 50 years,” he said referring to Barisan Nasional. He also said the allegation that the Bar favoured the opposition was not new, since similar claims were made during the tenure of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Lawyers’ welfare overlooked
Meanwhile, Muslim Lawyers’ Association president Zainul Rijal supported Nazri’s suggestion to form the law academy, saying it would allow lawyers an alternative. He said even in the United Kingdom, there were four academies that regulate the legal fraternity. However, Zainul disagreed with the notion that the Bar Council had become a tool of the opposition but said the council had overlooked several matters involving lawyers’ welfare. “It’s alright to champion fundamental liberties and human rights but it should not be at the expense of member lawyers,” he said. He cited one example, saying that the insurance premium imposed on lawyers was too high and the Bar Council had failed to look into the matter despite numerous complaints.
On the resolutions on Bersih 3.0, Zainul casts doubts on the impartiality since many of the observers sent to monitor the rally were pro-Bersih since the start. “And these observers provided reports to the leadership. So how can we expect them to provide a neutral report?” he asked.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BERSIH 3.0 Press Conference (9th May, 2012)

Extracted from The Sun: http://www.thesundaily.my/news/374173

Photos by Goh Siu Lin (Vice President AWL)

Don’t get sidetracked, Bersih NGOs remind public

Posted on 9 May 2012 - 09:36pm

Azizul Rahman Ismail


KUALA LUMPUR (May 9, 2012): Representatives of various NGOs that endorsed the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih 3.0 rally, have reminded the public not to get sidetracked from the real motive.

A total of 14 representatives out of 84 NGOs that endorsed the Bersih rally collectively brushed aside the various issues raised and advised the public not to forget the cause for the rally on April 28.

"The rally is not about the chairing committee. It is not about violence, communists, nor was it about overthrowing the government. It is about the people demanding for free and fair elections," said Komas executive director Tan Jo Hann.

He said this at a press conference to show solidarity amongst the NGOs at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, today.

The representatives also ask that personal accusations towards the Bersih chairing committee be stopped.

"We will stay focused and not be distracted by side issues. The Election Commission's accusation that Ambiga is a disruptor of democracy should not only be aimed at her, but at the thousands of people who attended Bersih 3.0," said the Association of Women Lawyers president Meera Samanther.

She said that everyone who was at the rally, independent of their political views, religion, or race, shared the same goal which was for free and fair election.

The eight demands made by the Bersih committee included free and equal access to the media by all parties and the cleaning up of the electoral roll.

The rally that was held also called for international observers during the election, and the resignation of Electoral Commission heads, which they alleged have lost the confidence of the people.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PROHAM: Appeal to End Vendetta Against Datuk S. Ambiga

Posted on 08 May 2012



Proham expresses serious concerns over the move by some to demonize and vilify the Bersih co-chairman by certain quarters including burning her photo poster and calling for her Malaysian citizenship to be revoked. What is even more troubling is the extensive media coverage by certain section of mainstream media.

The Federal constitution provides for circumstances in which the citizenship can be revoked. Exercising ones citizenship right for free speech, assembly and association as guaranteed in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution provides no grounds at all for revoking ones citizenship.

Proham is of the opinion that Datuk S Ambiga is acting within her constitutional rights and in the best interest of the nation for a clean and fair elections. She is a responsible Malaysian, who as the former chairperson of the Bar Council has won Malaysian and international recognition for her dedication and for her stand for justice. We believe like most Malaysians that she has kept the nation`s best interests at the foremost. Indeed we must commend her highly for her courage, commitment and perseverance in her pursuit for truth and justice.

Proham advises that there must be more open, frank and articulate discussions including peaceful public assemblies and expressions. Inciting hatred and anger towards individuals and genuine groups is not the moderate and proper way within to promote peace stability and progress in an evolving democratic society.

Proham calls on the Police and Home Affairs to advise these negative and disruptive groups including many sections of the mainstream media, to stop vilifying fair comment that is intended to promote healthy public discussion in the best interest of the nation and our future.

Released on behalf of Proham by

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Prof Hamdan Adnan and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria