Women makes up around 50% of Malaysia’s voter population. However, based on the 2008 election, the political representation of women in Malaysia is only 10%, while in the whole South East Asian region Malaysian women are only 18% politically represented.
In the history of the country, women played important roles. Kingdoms in Kelantan, Aceh, Sulawesi and Maluku were ruled by a line of queens. A century ago, an idea was spread that Malay Muslim girls, along with boys, should be given the best modern education. Moreover, women also served in the civil service and occupied senior positions in the business sector. But their condition has changed in the present. The number of women nominated and elected has become consistently low, especially in the male-dominated Malaysian society.
Women hold high positions at present including ministerial positions, political secretaries, diplomats, and senior civil servants. They are also being elected as members of various state assemblies, senators in Dewan Negara and in parliament. However, certain factors continue to bar women from fully participating in the political world. Mainly, these are cultural barriers that portrays stereotypical images of women in Malaysian society.
One is the persistent notion that women belong to the household. Women, themselves, find it difficult to balance their responsibilities at home and in their career. They also lack adequate resources as well as support in organization, financial and family matters. The nature of political parties also serve as a barrier; they remain consistent with their conservative attitude and resources are lacking to provide education and training, including women. The opposition parties are the ones who provide female members with greater opportunities. Moreover, despite making up almost half of the percentage of the electorate, political parties do not seem to be making any effort in attracting their votes by including more female candidates. The political environment also discourages women to participate because of the treatment they receive from male colleagues; sexual harassment, in the form of disparaging remarks and jokes. The dominance of male in politics imprinted in women the notion that politics is a realm of men. Furthermore, unlike other countries where a quota system was established to ensure women’s representation, in Malaysia such a system remains not in existence.
Azizah, W. (2002). Women in Politics: Reflections from Malaysia. Retrieved from International IDEA: http://www.idea.int/publications/wip/upload/CS_Malaysia_Azizah.pdf.
Mulakala, A. (2013, March 13). Where are Malaysia’s Women Politicians? Retrieved from Asia Foundation: http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2013/03/13/where-are-malaysias-women-politicians/.