Malay women prevented from realising their true potential

It is hard work being born a woman in Malaysia. When you rise to the top of your career, you are accused of bitching or sleeping your way to the top. If you are a mediocre female worker, you are accused of showing no ambition. When you fight for your rights, you are called a bully whose frustrations cause you to be aggressive.

The Malay, Muslim woman has to live with the yoke of male dominance, which controls her behaviour in everyday life. In addition, the male interpretation of Islam, will weigh her down. Several ploys will be used to try to prevent her from advancing herself.

The religion forbids her from touching males who are not blood relatives. The religion says that she is “unclean”, at certain times of the month. She can’t enter previously male dominated jobs, because she cannot dress “inappropriately”, even if the clothing she requires, is a pair of loose overalls. She can’t take a job which involves travel because it is “not her culture” to go anywhere without the accompaniment of a male relative.

No one knows the problems faced by a woman, better than the fathers of many women. Early last century, many fathers, especially the more astute Malay fathers, told their daughters that they should gain an education, to free them from being controlled by other men. They wanted to liberate their daughters and make them financially independent.

These fathers did not agree that their daughters, many of whom were smart and hardworking, should stay in the kitchen, and produce babies. Some fathers probably saw that their daughter’s lives were wrecked by controlling husbands, who demanded absolute obedience by threatening their wife and saying, “If you disagree, I can always take another wife.”

These words are enough to drive many women into submission. It does not matter to the men that they could ill afford to support another wife and family. They are oblivious to the psychological damage to their children who are affected by the treatment of their mothers.

Many Malay women have taken up the challenge of educating themselves and improving their lot in life. Last week, former Prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad said that 70% of the university student population were women. He praised them for having aspiration and for being studious. He damned the Malay men who preferred to be Mat Rempits (boy racers).

Whilst there is some truth in what he says, he ignored the detrimental effects of the government’s affirmative action policies. The NEP has contributed to the indolence of the Malay men. There is no pressure on them to succeed. They would prefer to remain idle, because there is little motivation, to make them strive harder. They have little incentive in life. Theirs is a hand to mouth existence. Without any competition, why should they perform?

The scenario is different for the Malay woman. She has probably seen other women in her family struggle. She knows that only she can determine her future. Marriage is not the solution, as she will have seen.

Even if Malay women are successful, there will always be a relative goading them with, “When are you going to get married?” If she were to marry, the next question would be, “When are you going to start a family?”

Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has excelled in her profession and has proven that women can triumph, in the face of adversity. When her husband was arraigned, on trumped charges, she came out of her comfort zone, and juggled several acts. She formed a political party, raised a family and rallied her supporters, to fight for democratic rights and justice.

Today, she has the support of the coalition members to be the Mentri Besar of Selangor, but like many Malay women who excel, she faces mounting opposition, from her own sex and from her own race.

After weeks of procrastination and yo-yoing, PAS president Hadi Awang finally admitted that he thought Wan Azizah was unsuitable because she lacked qualifications and was weak. He was really trying to say, “A woman’s job is at home. Give me the job.”

It is not just the conservative elements in PAS who are closet misogynists. A day after Hadi’s outburst, prime minister Najib Abdul Razak attacked DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud.

Najib said that parents should indoctrinate their children in the Umno-Baru mould, in order to “defend Malay, Islam and royalty”. This PM forgets he is leader of a multiracial nation.

Najib was trying to say, “The Umno-Baru general assembly is approaching. I don’t like Dyana and the other Malays eroding the Chinese-centric image of the DAP.”

To add to the confusion, former menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib said, “Wan Azizah is over-qualified”. He suggested that more candidates for the post of MB, be submitted to the palace. He is trying to say, “The rakyat can never win.”

It appears that in Malaysia, women are in danger of losing a role to play, because they will be brow beaten until they and those who support them, succumb. Hobbling the advancement of able women will be a hindrance to the development of the county, its financial stability, and the establishment of a democracy. Are you going to allow that?

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