Thursday, December 26, 2013

Baseline Study on the Working Conditions of Male and Female Lawyers in KL and Selangor - out in Praxis!

Article reproduced from the Jul-Sept 2013 issue:

The Association of Women Lawyers ("AWL") is conducting this study with the collaboration of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia ("SUHAKAM") and the Women's Aid Organisation ("WAO"). Legal and gender experts and a statistician from the University of Malaya ("UM") have been engaged as consultants.)


The main purpose of the study is to ascertain, among others, the working conditions of lawyers, their job satisfaction and the existence of any form of gender discrimination, if any, in the legal profession in Malaysia. The study will also include issues of sexual harassment.

To gain more insight into the study, we approached Meera Samanther, President of AWL to explain what the study is all about.


First things first: What is AWL?

AWL is an association of female lawyers from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. We are responsible for the promotion of the rights, welfare and professional development of women lawyers and law graduates in Malaysia. It is an organisation to eliminate discrimination and ensure full and equal participation of women lawyers and law graduates in the legal and related fields.

Apart from promoting gender equality and increasing the participation of women in all levels of legal and public institutions, AWL also aims to help support young female lawyers, so that they learn from their "sisters-at-law" who were there before them.


How did the idea of conducting this study come about?

It all started over a cup of latte in 2010, when my friend Sheena Gurbakash (a former practitioner) and I started lamenting and discussing the various ways in which we could get AWL members energised and focused on what's best for AWL. We decided to hold a brainstorming session where some of the younger members shared about the sexual harassment cases they knew of and the intimidation they experienced. Some also spoke about how they were encouraged by their lecturers to steer towards a path in conveyancing and family law, as apparently, it best suited a woman's lifestyle. When I was in Melbourne, I met with the Dean of the Law Faculty, who shared with me the various surveys that the Victorian Women Lawyers had conducted and so over our third cup of latte, Sheena and I realised that an exclusive study on sexual harassment would be insufficient because we felt that we needed to broaden our survey to look further and look at why women lawyers face unique challenges in their career.


Why is there a need to conduct this study?

There has never been any kind of survey or analysis of how women have progressed in the profession. We accept that there are rising stars and women with amazing competence through the years, e.g. Puan Hendon Mohamed, the late Tan Sri Lim Phaik Gan, Tan Sri Norma Yaakob and Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan, who are somewhat legendary in the legal circles. We also realise that there are many women who own their own firms or hold senior positions and who have exceeded clients' expectations. We also acknowledge the great strides that women have made in the judiciary, the Attorney General's Chambers, and also women lawyers who are less in the limelight but no less competent in the corporate world, who all began their career as lawyers. We are extremely proud of these individuals.

The profession has grown by leaps and bounds and there are many young female lawyers, who are making their way through the ranks and looking for opportunities for Mentorship and guidance. AWL Would like to play an active role in supporting these young lawyers. From the survey, we hope to obtain responses from women and men to get some kind of baseline about working conditions and social attitudes in practice.


How do you ensure that data collected from the study accurately reflects the true state of working conditions of lawyers in the Kiang Valley and Selangor?


As the sample of lawyers forming the survey is randomly selected and the field broad and large, it is hope that any lopsidedness is eradicated and we get a true picture and perspective of the working conditions of the current practitioners. There is no guarantee of course but when the numbers are big, and random, there are less chances for the study to be slanted in any way.


We hope that this study will reveal the situation from the surface and to gauge the general view of legal practitioners on the working conditions of male and female lawyers in Kiang Valley and Selangor. Most of our questions are based on experiences shared by male and female lawyers.


The Malaysian Bar has implemented a mechanism to deal with instances asexual harassment among members. In your opinion, how effective is this mechanism?


I realised from my observations that a lot of people do not seem to be aware of it. In fact, even some of the new members of AWL were not aware of the 2005 Bar Council Resolution and the Circular on the Code Of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment, which was circulated sometime in 2007. Therefore we cannot say that this mechanism is effective.


At the same time, we also need to understand the complexities of sexual harassment issues. The legal fraternity is small and, as much as we try to raise awareness on this matter sexual harassment is still a taboo in our society. It is something that affects the victims personally. We also need to be sensitive when approaching alleged perpetrators. However, we understand that just because sexual harassment is not discussed widely, that does not mean that it does not exist. That is why we support the Bar's efforts in this cause. We believe that it would be useful if the mechanism is discussed during the Ethics course or to have regular workshops on sexual harassment.


Other women NGOs have already conducted numerous surveys on women in the workplace. What distinguishes this one?


The unique thing about this study is that it is based on a feminist methodology on professional women that acknowledges that women and men experience social life and working life differently; Many studies have been conducted on the marginalised community in Malaysia and we are not aware of any conducted on a professional group.

This study will not only focus on direct discrimination such as sexual harassment. It will also seek to ascertain the extent of indirect discrimination in the Workplace. Indirect discrimination occurs when demands are made of employees that are not cognisant of the various social expectations that are placed on women. For example, the expectation that lawyers work long hours does not recognise that some women are also expected to care for families. A woman's inability to work those long hours may lead to her career options to be limited. We have also received anecdotal evidence that some young female lawyers are not given the opportunity to conduct their own trials as clients have this perception that male lawyers command more respect and are more competent to do so.


Thus the questions will include whether mentoring and paring for family members affect male and female lawyers differently and also whether there exists stereotypical perceptions on the ability of male and female lawyers. It is also pertinent to note that this study is targeted at both male and female lawyers, because it is not an isolated profession. Female lawyers work with male lawyers. We recognise the contributions that male lawyers have and continue to make in the legal fraternity and we are interested in what they have to say.


AWL is known as one of the women's groups, which pushed for the enactment of law on domestic violence. What do you hope to achieve with this study?


The aim of the survey is to help us understand the working conditions as well as the professional and personal challenges female lawyers face vis-a-vis male lawyers. Women lawyers make up nearly half of the Bar, and as such we have a stake in it. We all know that the level playing field is not equal between male and female lawyers even though there is nearly an equal participation of female lawyers in the profession.


We hope that this study will reveal information about how both men and women lawyers feel about their work and whether there really are androcentric biases. We also hope that this study will allow us to create programmes and action plans to address the issues women lawyers face and issues of discrimination, if any, and to work towards strengthening contribution by the women lawyers in the development of the profession and of society as a whole.


For further information on the study, please contact:

Meera Samanther

President, Association of Women Lawyers

Dr Lai Suat Yen

Lead Consultant, Baseline Study on the Working Condibbns of Male and Female Lawyers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor


Written by:

Ida Daniella Zulkifili

Advocate and Solicitor, Shook Lin & Bok

Nur Raihan Jasmani

Advocate and Solicitor, Alahakone &Associates

Monday, December 23, 2013

AWL Xmas Party and What a Party it was!

The festive season is here and last Friday, saw AWL lawyers gathering at Chef n Brew, to celebrate another good year of projects successfully undertaken, to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

As I sat there, I marvelled at the warmth and camaraderie on display. How this year's celebrations contrasted with the first AWL Xmas party three years ago, when many were still new to AWL and to one another. I'll let the pictures do the talking!

Ida Daniella, Kathlyn and Hui Ying spear-headed the Xmas themed party games,
 first on the agenda, a Xmas present exchange. Someone reads a story aloud and the
gift is passed in the direction (Left or Right) stated in the story. The person holding
the gift at the end of the story gets to keep it.
Eg. "I left my house and was on my way to Lucy Left's house..."

Women practitioners and non-practitioners, ranging from pupils up to those
with 40 years of practice under their belt (ie. Ms Vicky Alahakone).  
Jane Pragasam delighted with her new
bling bling jewellery and earrings.
Tham Hui Ying (Assistant Secretary) now has no excuse
for badly manicured nails!
Our President, Meera Samanther, looking beautiful in
 her lace detailed dress.
Showing off our Xmas stash... Note Ms Foo's skull top, only she
 is able to pull off this look and still look chic.
With Kathlyn Lee (Secretary) and Hui Ying (Assistant Secretary)
Ms Foo's turn at charades.
L to R: Hui Ying, Shahin, Meera, Fiona
Team Incorrigibles... leading in Charades much to the chagrin of my team.... :(

The final score... losers (The Unpretentious) had to write "Merry Christmas"
with their bottoms much to the amusement of fellow patrons.
Vicky and her protege, Hui Ying.
L to R: Kiran (best-dressed in my book), Siu Lin, Vicky, Hui Ying, Ms Foo, Shahin.
Big dazzling smiles...enough to light up any room (or Xmas tree!) 
Kathly, Ida Daniella, Hui Ying, Siu Lin, Sally, Cheryl and Eliz.
Any Xmas celebration would not be complete without some carolling!
Dextrous Kathlyn on the keyboard. We rocked the restaurant with "Jingle Bells"!
It was a fantastic and memorable evening.

We look forward to a fruitful and impactful year ahead and all are welcome to help in our future projects and lead AWL to a higher platform.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AWL Annual Dinner - 21st December, 2013

Dear members,

It's nearing the end of the year, and it's time to catch up, be merry and party!

AWL Annual Dinner Party will be held on Saturday, 21.12.2013.
Venue: Chef & Brew Restaurant
Address: Epicure, 1 Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur

Please contact Daniella (012-9740517/ or Hui Ying (012-9446153/ you are able to attend.

See you all there!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reopen the child bride rape case, say groups

PETALING JAYA: Women’s groups have demanded better rape investigation procedures and have called for the case involving a child bride who was allegedly raped by a youth whom she later married to be reopened.
Sisters In Islam programme manager Suri Kempe said the case of 13-year-old Nor Fazira Saad had highlighted a legal loophole in the law, which allowed rapists to escape investigation and punishment through marriage.
“Muslim and non-Muslim children must not be treated differently. It is deplorable that marriage is being used by alleged rapists as a way to escape prosecution.
“The government must stop rapists from manipulating religion and culture. We urge the government to make child protection a priority by amending this flawed provision in the law.
“The practice of child marriages affects many economic, social and health risks and does not protect our girls or secure their future,” she said.
Suri said the best interests of the child “was clearly not a consideration” when the Syariah Court approved this marriage application.
She said the Child Act 2001 recognises a 13-year-old girl as a child but despite being legally a child, she is denied the protection normally afforded to children, including anonymity from public scrutiny, just because she is married.
“This is one of the perils of child marriage, a practice that has no place in a country that aims to be a developed nation by 2020.”
Human rights lawyer and activist Honey Tan said as the crime of rape was against the state, a police report on rape could technically not be withdrawn.
“In theory, you can carry on even though the victim doesn’t want to proceed. Ideally, we should not place so much weight on the complainant’s evidence,” she said.
“In other countries, police evidence, videos, photographs and doctors testimonies carry equal or more weight.”
Tan, who is also part of NGO Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), said as it was common for young victims to have trouble testifying, it was important to have witnesses who were “completely objective” like doctors.
Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah said the case served to highlight the regressive idea that once a girl was no longer a “‘virgin”, she was regarded as worthless.
“If you’re raped, you’re seen as worthless and no one will marry you. There’s a cultural belief that a woman is nothing after being raped, leading to some using rape as coercion into marriage.”
Josiah called for the social welfare department to step in, adding that it was “appalling” that a child was allowed to wed.
“Where is child protection in this instance? The courts should be educated that child marriage should not be condoned at all.”
Josiah, too, called for the police to re-open the investigation.
“Withdrawing a report does not mean the crime was not committed,” she said.
Association of Women Lawyers president and WAO exco, Meera Samanther also said that the police could pursue the case themselves.
“Competent police will go the extra mile to try and find out why there was a withdrawal.
“In this case, a social worker should have stepped in to interview the girl and find out more. It’s the state’s duty to find out what happened as it’s their responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail said he would look into the case personally.
“We are now obtaining details of the case,” he said, adding that the A-G’s Chambers would respond to the issue soon.
Social Welfare department director-general Datuk Noraini Mohd Hashim said the department had to respect the wishes of Nor Fazira Saad’s parents as she was a minor and was under their responsibility.
“We have to respect the wishes of the parents. She is divorced now, she has parents and she must go back to them first. The responsibility is with them, and we cannot encroach on their rights,” she said.
Noraini said that if approached, the department would discuss the next step with the parents.
“If she needs counselling, we can provide that. If she would like to go back to school, we can help with that too.
“We don’t want to encroach on a family matter. We will approach only if they seek our help,” she said.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

AWL Annual Xmas get-together - 21st December, 2013

Dear members,
It's nearing the end of the year, and it's time to catch up, be merry and partay!
AWL Annual Dinner Party will be held on Saturday, 21.12.2013.
Please contact Daniella (012-9740517/ or Hui Ying (012-9446153/ you are able to attend.
The venue will be confirmed later.
Hope to see you all there!

Friday, September 6, 2013

In a quandary for being kind, compassionate and tolerant

A great article written by Datuk Noor Faridah , former President of AWL . former Sessions Court Judge & former Ambassador to the Hague .


In a quandary for being kind, compassionate and tolerant

I READ with concern the report on the arrest of Maznah Mohd Yusof who was featured in the so-called controversial video celebrating Hari Raya with her dogs.

The police took action based on a report made against her in Segamat.

Jakim, which had been consulted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, has now decided that the video clip is insulting to Islam.

Of late, many things have been pronounced as insulting to Islam including the Alvivi video clip (which admittedly was offensive to Muslims but the couple has since apologised), the participation of four Muslim girls in a beauty contest, and now this.

This vague and all-encompassing offence should be a cause of concern to Muslims as the powers that be can haul anyone to court for any act deemed offensive to one or two Muslims with different views.

I consider myself a devout Muslim but neither I nor any of my decent, moderate, tolerant, practising Muslim friends find Maznah’s video clip offensive.

There is nothing in the Quran or Hadith which states that dogs are unclean. Indeed a Hadith as narrated by Imam Muslim states that Muslims may keep dogs to guard their homes or property.

I am concerned that scarce police resources are being used to investigate this inconsequential video and its maker when our law enforcers should be focussing and directing their resources to serious crimes such as murder, rape and gun violence which are being committed on a daily basis in this country.

As for the Islamic authorities, should they not concern themselves with the more serious transgressions committed by the Muslim faithful such as rampant corrupt activities, rape, incest, infanticide or even snatch thefts which have led to loss of lives?

The above crimes are absolutely forbidden and are more insulting to Islam than celebrating Hari Raya with one’s canine pets or participating in beauty contests, as the aforementioned crimes are harmful to society.

If Maznah is charged in court for some vague offence or even sedition, it will be perceived as an abuse of the legal process and will also make Malaysia the laughing stock of the world.

I believe it is high time for decent, moderate and tolerant Muslims in this country to speak out against the creeping Talibanism which seems to be invading the country.

We need to show the world and non-Muslims the kind, compassionate and tolerant face of Islam as opposed to the intolerant, holier-than-thou and punitive image of Islam espoused by some Muslims in this country.


Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book-launch featuring 10 prominent women activists - 6th August, 2013.

Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun launched her book of 10 women activists, namely Dato Ambiga , Ivy Josiah, Ho Yock Lin, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir , Dr Cecilia Ng, Loh Cheng Kooi , Madeline Yong and Meera Samanther (our President - far right).

Monday, August 5, 2013

KiniTV interview: Malaysia's orphans & the long road to adoption

Our Vice-President was recently interviewed by Ms Sumisha Naidu of KiniTV for their KiniFocus segment.

Link at

Published on 2013-07-28 13:07:29
    "Figures suggest there are more than 400,000 children who've been orphaned in Malaysia - and thousands of homes set up across the country to look after them. But how do these children end up in homes, is anyone adopting them, and if so, what does it take? KiniTV's Sumisha Naidu takes a look at these issues and speaks to everyone from YouTube personality Fynn Jamal (who's adopted herself) to an adoption lawyer to NGO, OrphanCare - who's pleading for Malaysians to take a child home."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Bersih 2.0 Organising Committee for the People's Tribunal on GE13 is looking for more lawyers to join the legal team that is collecting evidence that will be presented at the People's Tribunal to be held from 18 to 22 September 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

Head of the Legal Team is Prof. Gurdial Singh Nijar who will brief you on Tuesday 6 August at 7pm. For more details e mail Meera Samanther at or call at 012 3138850
Meera Samanther
Organising Committee Member for the People's Tribunal