KOTA KINABALU: SAWO and Rakyat is Bos have urged all parties to commit, upon forming government, to using the power to appoint women as nominated assemblypersons to remedy gender imbalance.
In a statement yesterday, they pointed out that Article 14 of the Constitution of the State of Sabah allows the state government to recommend the appointment of no more than six nominated members to the Legislative Assembly of Sabah (DUN Sabah) by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (TYT).
The last government had appointed five such members but all were men.
“We are not surprised that in 2020 still not a single party contesting in the upcoming Sabah State election has met the international benchmark to nominate at least 30 percent women candidates.
“In fact, even only eight of the 20 parties contesting nominate 10 percent or more of women candidates: Human Rights Party (20.0%), PKR (14.3%), DAP (14.3%), Warisan (13.0%), LDP (13.0%), STAR (12.5%), PCS (11.0%) and Usno (10.6%).
“This results in only 43 women candidates out of 447 candidates, or 9.6 percent.
More so, only voters from 32 constituencies have the chance to vote for a woman candidate,” the statement said.
They said the two main blocs vying for state power, Warisan Plus and Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, PBS) nominate women candidates only in 13 constituencies.
“Unless voters are willing to consider quality women candidates from the third parties or amongst the independents, the number of women assemblypersons would be at most 13 or 17.8 percent of DUN Sabah.
This means a minimum gap of 12.2 percent or nine assemblypersons or more from meeting the 30 percent international benchmark.
“If six women nominated assemblypersons are added to 13, then women percentage in the DUN would be raised to 24.1 percent. However, if six more men were to be nominated, the women percentage would further drop to 16.5 percent.”
They stressed the need to have more women in the legislative assembly does not only support gender equality or benefit only women.
But, they believed that having more women in the political sphere would promote empowerment of women in decision-making in the family and community, in the workplace and ultimately in the higher positions such as legislators.
“Strong women leaders often build strong communities and benefit the society as a whole in the long run.”
In a democratic system, they stated that legislators must come from various backgrounds to enable a wide array of issues brought to the table for discussion, consideration and for proposal accordingly.
As a progressive state proud of diversity and inclusion, it is a shame that Sabah is far behind in reaching at least 30 percent women participation in decision-making positions as targeted by the Malaysian government in the 9th Malaysia Plan 2006-2010.
“Sabah must therefore stand out from being part of the sorry state of women under-representation in Malaysia, which ranks 140th in 192 countries surveyed for women representation in the national parliament/lower house with apathetic14.4 percent.
“Sabah must strive to be on par with countries like Australia (30.0%), Germany (30.9%) and Latvia (31.0%) if not higher like Sweden (47.3%), South Africa (42.7%) and Finland (41.5%) and not in the league of Cyprus (17.9%), Gabon (17.9%) and Turkey (17.4%). Women empowerment should be an integral part of Sabah’s regional identity as conservative forces are pushing Malaysia backward.
“This is why SAWO and Rakyat is Bos strongly urge parties to commit to appointing only women for nominated members after their blunders of nominating less than 20 percent of women.
“We should not disregard the fact that the minority groups’ interests and priorities are often shaped by their respective economic, social and ethnic differences,” they said.
Without the participation of women, they said the legislative system in Sabah is lacking the diverse backgrounds and life experiences which enable the legislators to shape policies for the advancement of these minority groups.
They also believed that having women involved in legislative making decision has an enormous impact as it creates a means to reform and revise discriminatory laws against girls and women.
“We should not forget that women and children’s rights have never been the main concern of State.”