Malaysia: Backlash against International Women’s Day march distracts from key demands

 The organisers of the International Women's Day march on March 9 would like to restate the five demands that brought together hundreds of supporters from all walks of life in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

Contrary to the moral panic instigated by the media, and amplified by the political opportunism by individuals in positions of authority, the International Women's Day march calls for:

• End all violence based on gender and sexual orientation

• Ban all child marriages

• Ensure our rights and freedom to make choices over our own bodies and lives

• Ensure dignified minimum wage of RM1,800

• Destroy patriarchy and build genuine democracy at all levels of society

There was a rich diversity of voices that represented concerns of women from all sections of

Malaysian society that spoke up clearly and loudly about their realities and vision for a better nation. This included women from Sarawak who demanded for equal access to maternal healthcare, and shared the tragic story of Kam Agong who lost her life medical negligence after delivering her eighth child.

Dr. Naziaty spoke about the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities, including in gaining recognition and access to justice for gender-based violence. She called for equal rights to education, skills, public services, and to a full life lived with dignity for people with disabilities.

Representatives from Orang Asli women demanded for equal access and control over their land and resources, while representatives of young women demanded for the right to comprehensive education on gender equality and sexual rights to address the root causes of gender-based violence.

There was also an overwhelming collective demand for increasing the minimum wage to RM1,800, in recognition of the fact that most low-income earners are women.

The importance of these realities and demands were entirely sidelined by the media and attackers of the march. Instead, disproportionate attention was made to single out and target the presence of LGBT participants. This borders on incitement to hatred and violence towards a section of Malaysian society who are already at risk and facing multiple forms of discrimination. We strongly reject such a move, and the continued escalation of this hostile and aggressive treatment.

A healthy democracy rests on the full and equal participation by all levels of society. We remind the government that it is their duty to defend this basic principle, in particular for those who are marginalised in society.

The government cannot be selective in carrying out this duty to only particular groups of women, but must apply this to all everyone regardless of ethnicity, age, ability, location, gender or sexuality. This includes not only lesbian, bisexual, intersex, queer and trans women, but also indigenous women, young women, women domestic workers, women with disabilities, rural women, single women, heterosexual women and more. The specific and deliberate non-recognition of LBTIQ women acts as an attempt to exclude and erase an entire segment of the population of women. Without such an intersectional and inclusive approach, all of our measures towards building a more peaceful, harmonious and developed nation will be hampered.

We call for reason, restrain, openness and respect by all parties who are currently launching a campaign of hate and aggression towards the march. Instead, to celebrate this International Women's Day March event as one that united women ― and others ― across a diversity of experiences, concerns and regions for a more inclusive, just and democratic Malaysia. Read more via Malay Mail