Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Alternative CEDAW Report Launch - 6th September, 2012

Meera and I were invited to the launch of the Alternative CEDAW Report prepared by 22 NGOs. Had to rush to PJ and was in time to catch the oral testimony of NoorFadilla - whose wrongful termination of a teaching contract created headlines resulting in a landmark decision where the Court recognised and upheld Malaysia's acession to CEDAW holding that the termination of her employment on the basis of her pregnancy was gender discrimination and unlawful.

Noorfadhilla at the podium.
NoorFadilla's personal account was tremendously moving as she related how she was shamed by her colleagues and relatives just because she chose to speak up.

She was courageous enough to stand up, to fight the injustice and claim her rights, and by doing so, paved the road for others.

The Noorfadhilla case is authority for the principle that United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has the force of law and is binding on Malaysia (ie our government), further holding that pregnancy was not a reason not to employ a pregnant woman. Such a stand is a clear form of gender discrimination and is unconstitutional.

She expressed her gratitude to her parents, husband and support from the NGOS and also for the pro bono legal work from the team of Edmond Bon and Honey Tan. Kudos to the legal eagles!

I met her lovely family and the little child whom she was pregnant with, the centre of dispute, now a strapping little boy.

The Alternative Report.
22 women NGO groups had collaborated to produce an alternative report to assess the government’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under CEDAW.
Ivy Josiah, explaining the need for the alternative report.
It was interesting to hear how Malaysia has only acceded to 3 out of 9 human rights treaties:

a) CEDAW - ratified on 15.7.1995 prior to a major women's conference in September that year;
b) Convention of the Rights of the Child; and
c) Convention of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities.
The crowd.
Globally, 80% of all countries have ratified at least 4 out of the 9 human rights treaties and statistics show that other member states are willing to be transparent and accountable. Unfortunately, Malaysia's CEDAW report to the UN on its fulfillment of its obligations under CEDAW has been overdue since 2008.

It was because of this delay and no reporting which led to the preparation by the non-governmental organisations of the Alternative CEDAW Report.

In one of the speeches, I can't recall exactly by whom, but I remember this being said, "Women must come forward and claim their rights. The law is our instrument, our "superheroes".

The unveiling of the CEDAW Alternative Report.
Taken with our "superheroines".
Ordinary women who found the strength to speak out and claim their rights.
L to R: Goh Siu Lin (Vice President AWL), NoorFadilla, Vani of Guppy Plastics, Meera Samanther (President AWL).

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