All not fair for fairer sex in M’sia polls

By Sa'Odah Elias and Desiree Tresa Gasper | Source: ANN
Despite the changing times, many women say they are still not getting the recognition they deserve from political parties in Malaysia.

In Johor, for instance, the push to have more women representatives continues to be a tough battle and it remains to be seen if there will be more women candidates in the 13th general election.

State Wanita UMNO – the women wing of the United Malays National Organisation – chief Sharifah Azizah Syed Zaid said the wing had proposed that at least 30 per cent of UMNO seats in Barisan Nasional be given to women candidates.

“The national leadership has said that they have no problem with having more women MPs or assemblymen, so I don’t see why we cannot have additional seats,” she said. “Women make up half of the population in the country. As such, it is time for them to have bigger representation in politics,” she added.

In the 2008 general election, only four women MPs out of 26 and five state assemblymen (out of 56) were elected in Johor.

Three of the MPs are from UMNO and one is from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

As for the state assemblymen, three are from UMNO and there are one each from MCA and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

A state MCA woman leader, who declined to be named, said women had to go the extra mile before being considered for seats.

“We really have to push for it,” she said.

Women representatives also faced extra challenges in being recognised as potential representatives by voters.

Yong Peng assemblyman Lim Kee Moi said it was hard to convince the voters that women candidates were equally, if not more, competent than their male counterparts.

“However, throughout my years in politics, I have learnt that after the initial hardship, people will support you (a woman candidate) when they see you working hard for them,” said Lim, who has been in politics for 28 years.

The first-term state assemblyman said women made good candidates as they were naturally caring and empathic.

“We can easily relate to the problems faced by the people and recognise the urgency in solving them,” she said.

As for Pan-Malaysian Islamic (PAS) party potential candidate for Tiram, R. Kumutha, she faces a double challenge, she says – not only is she a woman, but also Indian contesting for the Islamist party.

The law graduate, who also contested on a PAS ticket in the same area in 2008, said people were sceptical of her.

“The Indian community is still very traditional and usually prefer men as leaders,” she said.

“I usually just explain to them about my choices and what I can offer them,” she said, adding that it was sometimes challenging to convince voters that she could accomplish all that she pledged.

First time candidate Clara Liaw Cai Tung, the potential Democratic Action Party candidate for the Johor Jaya state seat, said that dealing with older voters posed particular difficulty, especially for a young female candidate.

“I am 27 and I am usually bombarded with questions whenever I meet people in the constituency,” she pointed out.

“I guess people want to know if a young woman is really able to represent them and fight for their rights,” she said, adding that she has experienced her share of teasing and harassment from men.

“Some called me and started talking vulgar.”