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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003


Don't leave women out in election, says group

Kota Kinabalu: A Joint Action Committee on Women’s Issues is appealing to all potential candidates in the coming election to include women issues in their manifesto or election agenda.

In the same breath, they are also asking State leaders to fulfil their commitment at State level, as articulated by the Federal Government in the National Women Policy 1989, the 6th Malaysia Plan as well as all other international conventions and action plans committed to women.

“Women make half of the electorate, hence we are taking advantage of the current political climate to bring these issues to the fore again,” said Mary Lee, President of the Sabah Women Action Resource Group (SAWO), which is one of the 12 organisations in the committee, during a press conference Monday.

The other organisations are the Single Mothers’ Association, West Coast South, Secretaries Association Sabah, Sabah Nurses Association (SANA), KK Chinese Women Association, Bahai Office for the Advancement of Women (BOAW), Sabah Girl Guides Association, Good Shepherd Sisters, Beaufort Chinese Women Association, Kudat Chinese Women Association, KK Hakka Association (Women Section) and Sabah Muslim Women Lawyers Association (SALWA).

“We are disappointed and frustrated that after more than a decade, women are still struggling with the same problems and issues that galvanised women’s groups throughout the country to launch the National Campaign against Violence Against Women (VAW) in 1987.

“We are grateful that the national leaders have made good their promises through enacting new laws, for example, the Domestic Violence Act 1994 and the Child Act 2001, or strengthening others, for example, amendments in 1989 to the Penal Code in relation to rape. Further, the Federal Government has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995.

“But we are disappointed that the initiatives were not followed up in the State. Women in Sabah have not benefited in terms of better protection, services and help in cases of both domestic violence and rape.

“As of today, no safe place or shelter has been set up for victims of domestic violence, and only one One-Stop Crisis Centre has been set up in the Accident and Emergency Unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In order to reach out and provide services to more women, these should be set up in all districts in the State,” she said.

According to Lee, the committee came about following a series of discussions, which began on May 1, 2003 on the position of women in Sabah in relation to the CEDAW Document, of which Malaysia is one of the signatories.

“By signing the document, our government is accountable to the international community to make changes to any policies or laws which discriminate, including violence against women.

“Various pertinent and crucial issues were raised, in particular, the suffering of women from violence, be it in the form of rape or in the privacy of their home.”

Lee, on behalf of the committee, expressed appreciation to Chief Minister Datuk Musa Haji Aman for responding positively to a memorandum sent to him on July 21 this year.

In the memorandum, the committee emphasised the need for urgent action on:

* The agencies and their roles in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act in Sabah which needs to be clearly defined;

* A coordinating committee to monitor this implementation of the Domestic Violence Act to be set up and to include the Department of Welfare Services, the Police, the Medical Department and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that work with victims of family violence;

* The setting up of shelters and one-stop crisis centres throughout Sabah.

“These services are lacking in Sabah, and women and children who are victims of rape suffer additional trauma because they are treated incompassionately, as they are made to go from one authority to another. As a heart-breaking example, one of our groups had a case of a child rape victim who was brought from one authority to another, carrying around her bloodstained underwear as evidence.

“Women live in fear for the safety of their children and for their lives in violent homes.

“Sabah has not set up shelters for women and children in such situations where they can have access to counseling and support while they struggle to put their lives in order.

Although the Domestic Violence Act 1994 and the UN Convention (CEDAW) which Malaysia has endorsed specify the requirement for shelters, Sabah has still not established any,” stressed the Committee, among others.

©Copyright 2003, DAILY EXPRESS NEWS (Malasia)

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