The amendment to the Federal Constitution is hugely significant as Article 8(2) prohibits discrimination against citizens regardless of religion, race or descent. Now it is amended to also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender.
i. Gender bias
When I was President of the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) in 2014, I initiated a baseline survey on the working conditions of male and female lawyers. There were rumours floating within the legal fraternity on a number of sexual harassment (SH) cases, primarily against female lawyers. However, there was no comprehensive policy to address it.
AWL felt that to conduct a survey on SH alone was not feasible as we expect that not many survivors would want to respond. So, we looked at gender bias within legal profession as a whole. This survey cover matters such as salaries, attitudes, promotions, bias towards female lawyers, stereotyping areas of legal practice, attrition rate and many other issues including SH.
This was the first time a survey of such a nature was conducted within the legal profession. The Bar needed some convincing to release the data. Suhakam came on board together with the Gender studies Department and Law Faculty of the University Malaya. This survey spawned more discussions on SH within the Bar. The survey brought to light the challenges faced by women lawyers within the profession.
Related : Gender Bias: COVID-19, The Workplace and The Future
ii. People with disability
Finally, I have in recent years been involved in the re-drafting of the Persons With Disability Act, which as it stands, is more of an administrative act with no redress mechanism. I have been lobbying for changes to this law for several years now.
It has been difficult to get civil society groups to understand the challenges that disabled persons face more so now with the pandemic. For example, in the past 2 years, many meetings were held online and those who are deaf had great difficulty managing meetings without zoom captions or a BIM interpreter. We all advocate for an inclusive society but there is a need to walk the talk.
Read More: 3 Empathy Tips Learned Befriending Someone with a Disability
My Journey as an Activist and Change Maker Continues
I am often asked what keeps me going after all these years. For the last 25 years, I have worked on drafting the Sexual Harassment Bill with members of JAG and now in 2022, the Bill is before Parliament. It may not contain all my wish list but it is a start. Hence our work does not stop here. As an activist, I will continue to educate and to lobby members of Parliament, the Select Committees in Parliament, corporations, media, influencers, trade unions to help promote better legislation and enhance many aspects of the Sexual Harassment Bill.
If I do not get involved, should I wait for someone else to do it on my behalf. Who is that someone else? What if that someone else do not come forward?
We all believe in change. Change for the better. Change to bring about a more equitable society so that we can pass on a better world to our children. Each of us need to take the first step. I took my first step as an activist nearly a quarter century ago. Along the way, I faced hardship, challenges, threats, intimidation and tribulations. But I am proud of my work and I have no regrets. I have not written the last chapter to my story yet. The struggle continues and I hope more will join us in fighting for a fairer, more equitable and humane society. I invite you to join me in this journey of activism. Be the advocate of change!
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