By Dr Sharifah Halimah Jaafar | TMI
MAY 21, 2014
The blatant act of disrespect on women and sexist messages by various groups to demean them during the Teluk Intan by-election campaign are unacceptable in a society which aims to become a developed nation.
The hoots and wolf whistles that drown out Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, the DAP’s Teluk Intan candidate, by the predominantly male crowd at the nomination centre a few days ago for the gift of her physical appearance, are very regrettable. Our society at large is still unable to recognise and respect women for their calibre, strength and capability, to become leaders just as men.
It is also shameful that certain parties tried to humiliate Dyana by spreading the photos of a bikini-clad actress resembling her on the internet, purportedly portray her as a “bad” Muslim.
No doubt Dyana Sofya is young and beautiful, but what stands out about her is her intelligence, professionalism, confidence, courage, determination and passion to fight what she believes is right, despite the odds and the storms that come her way.
In a nutshell, this young lady has all the essence of a good leader with integrity and commitment for the rakyat, but it is a pity that narrow minded men see her as a sex object.
Even more disappointing than the hoots and the woots is Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the former minister for Women and Family and Community Development, who should have upheld the government’s commitment to gender equality by promoting women in decision-making positions and reject sexism. Instead of welcoming Dyana Sofya, Shahrizat dismissed her as a mere puppet and cosmetics to DAP, suggesting she is young and pretty and so doesn’t have a mind of her own.
It is regrettable that the special advisor to the prime minister on women affairs fails to respect the right of a young woman to choose her political path.
Although Dyana represents an opposition party, it would be meaningful and welcoming if Shahrizat, being a senior woman leader, show her the way of healthy politics by taking on her on women’s agenda, or how being an opposition MP can help her play a role to bring progress to women in Malaysia.
The government has emphasised that the empowerment of women and the improvement of their social, economic and political status is vital for sustainable development, and can propel Malaysia to become a developed nation.
Sexism is a major hindrance towards achieving equal gender participation in building the developed nation.
Thus, to realise the mission for a developed nation, we must take a conscious effort to condemn and eliminate all forms of oppression, in particular the culture and attitude of sexism and misogynistic view towards women by all sectors of society.
Only then the culture of respect will grow in our nation and we will reap the fruits of a healthy nation.
* Dr Sharifah Halimah Jaafar is consultant on women’s health at KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital, Ipoh.