Monday, June 29, 2015

Gender Equality Initiative 2015 - Colloquium on Gender Discrimination in the Learning Environment at Taylor's University, 8.4.2015


AWL's President, Meera Samanther, with the participants
The Association of Women Lawyers and the Bar Council had in late 2014 banded together with Taylor's University, INTI University, Advanced Tertiary College ( ATC), KDU College and Brickfileds Asia College (BAC) to establish the Gender Equality Initiative 2015 (GEI). The objective of the event is to create greater awareness amongst university and college students on gender equality. The first event under the GEI was the Colloquium on Gender Discrimination in the Learning Environment, which was held at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus on the 8th of April 2015.
The colloquium comprised of 2 parts, the written research paper as well as the oral presentation. Each participant was evaluated on factors which include research, the content of their presentation and the effectiveness of the message that they tried to bring across.
The competition at Taylor's University began at 2.00p.m. wherein 8 participants from the collaborating institutions delivered their presentations on issues relating to gender discrimination such as lack of access to education for young girls and discrimination against transgender athletes in schools. The participants demonstrated a high level of dedication and genuine passion towards their research. They also managed to handle the Question & Answer session with poise and confidence despite being bombarded with difficult questions from the audience. The winners of the competition are:-
Champion: Joash Nicholas Ong
1st Runner Up: Sukayna Khalid Khan
2nd Runner Up: Patricia Chong Su Yin
All in all, the Colloquium was a success and AWL together with the collaborators look forward to the next event under the GEI, which is the upcoming Debate Competition on the 16th of June 2015.

Annual General Meeting of the Association of Women Lawyers - 29th April, 2015

AWL's AGM held at the Bar Council meeting room. Here we are hard at work amending the constitution... long overdue.

The AWL family has grown .. old friends and new faces.

AWL Exco for 2015-2017

President: Goh Siu Lin
Vice-President: Tham Hui Ying
Secretary: Kathlyn Lee Sue In
Assistant Secretary: Chong Lit San
Treasurer: Ida Daniella Zulkifili
Assistant Treasurer: Nur Raihan Jasmani

Committee Members:
Meera Samantha
Sheena Gurbakhash
Santhi Latha

Co-opted Members:
Kiran Dhaliwal
Sharmini Thiruchelvam
Lee Lyn-Ni,
Quah Su Enn

Gender Equality Initiative Debate Competition at INTI International University on 16 June 2015


The Association of Women Lawyers together with the Bar Council and in collaboration with INTI International University, Taylor's University, Advance Tertiary College, Brickfields Asia College, HELP University and KDU banded together again for the Gender Equality Initiative (GEI) by organising a Debate Competition at INTI International University on 16 June 2015.

 The event began with a welcoming note by the INTI Law Faculty Dean, Dr. Jagdeep Singh, followed by an opening address by AWL's Treasurer, Ida Daniella Zulkifili.

The theme of this debate competition is 'gender equality', which encompasses issues such as:-
i) gender based discrimination at the workplace, politics and in the education system;
ii) discrimination against people who identify themselves as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT);
iii) the difference between sex and gender; and
iv) feminism in the modern world.

A total of 8 teams participated in the Debate Competition, which saw the students arguing on 3 motions:-

(i) Preliminary Round - This House Believes That Imposing A Minimum Quota for Participation of Women in Parliament Will Not Help Achieve Gender Equality

(ii) Semi Final Round - This House Believes That Traditional Gender Roles are Inherently Damaging to Social Equality

(iii) Final Round - This House Believes that Gender Equality Is A Myth

After a gruelling series of debates, INTI International University emerged as champion of the GEI Debate Competition 2015. Taylor's University followed closely as the runner-up. Patricia Chong Su Yiin of INTI International University was declared the Best Overall Debater while Joash Nicholas Ong of Taylor's University was named as the Best Debater in the Final Round.
AWL would like to congratulate all participants and hope that the students would continue to advocate for gender equality, be it within or outside campus.

AWL's View on Marital Rape - Why It Should Be Criminalised

AWL is of the view that Section 375A of the Penal Code is deficient for many reasons. For example:

a) the section in its current form, fails to recognise that rape is a crime involving an act of sexual violence without the victim's consent. There are instances where marital rape occurs in the absence of any visible signs of injury on the victim as the perpetrator may resort to other forms of coercion (e.g. economic, emotional threats, blackmail etc).

b) it should also be highlighted that the prescribed punishment under Section 375A is imprisonment up to 5 years - extremely mild when compared with Section 375 which prescribes a minimum period of incarceration of 5 years up to a maximum of 20 years AND whipping.

If Section 375 and Section 375A were meant to be the same animal under the guise of a different term, then why is there an apparent and gross disparity in sentencing guidelines??

Why is the offence of marital rape not stigmatised in the same manner as the other categories of rape under S375? Why should rape in a marital relationship be punished less severely? Does S375A send a sufficiently strong message of condemnation of the act of marital rape?

These are but a few questions for each of us to consider when evaluating whether or not the existing S375A is adequate in providing deterrence and justice to victims of marital rape.

Goh Siu Lin

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

AWL’s Press Statement 10.6.2015 – on the need to criminalise marital rape

10th June, 2015

10th June, 2015

We refer to the news item carried by the Malaysiakini news portal dated 10.6.2015. It was reported that the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, YB Nancy Shukri had in her parliamentary written reply, confirmed the retention of the exception under Section 375 of the Penal Code, relating to marital rape

This effectively means that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife without her consent, is not considered rape in this country.

AWL is most disappointed by this regressive stance taken by the Government in refusing to criminalise marital rape. This is contrary to the recommendations of the CEDAW committee of 2006 on Malaysia, i.e:”The Committee requests the State party to enact legislation criminalizing marital rape, defining such rape on the basis of lack of consent of the wife.

 Malaysia’s position on marital rape is in stark contrast to 52 other nations, including Turkey, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America which have legislated to make marital rape an offence (See UN Report Annexure 4: “The 2011 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice Report”).

 The said 2011 Report also made reference to the authority of Meera Dhungana on behalf of FWLD v HMG. In that case, the Nepalese Supreme Court had the occasion to hear a case brought by the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD). It was ground-breaking for having invalidated the provision of the criminal code that exempted husbands from being charged with the rape of their wives. The court in rejecting the Government’s argument that outlawing marital rape would offend Hindu beliefs, also ended the conflict between the country’s Muluki Ain civil code, based on Hindu religious principles, and the 1990 Constitution, which pledges to end all forms of gender discrimination. The Nepalese Supreme Court stated most succinctly the essence of rape and why it should be criminalised:

Sexual intercourse in conjugal life is a normal course of behaviour, which must be based on consent. No religion may ever take it [marital rape] as lawful because the aim of a good religion is not to hate or cause loss to anyone.” 

The essence of rape stems from the issue of lack of consent in a relationship where parties are of unequal bargaining power, powerfully illustrated by the prevalence of child marriages in this country, coupled with the inter-sectionality of poverty and lack of education.

A marriage certificate cannot be a licence for forced sex. The assumption that a wife implicitly consents to all sexual activity is discriminatory of women. We urge the Honourable Minister to reconsider her stand.

Goh Siu Lin
Association of Women Lawyers