Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that although he is not encouraging all women to wear leotards, it is ultimately their choice to wear them when appropriate.
He was referring to the incident last year where national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who bagged a gold medal in the SEA Games, was instead criticised for wearing a leotard during the competition.
"I'm not asking all young women to wear leotards, of course not, but I'm saying, where it's appropriate.
"There is a choice for our young athletes, a choice for young women to lead their lives how they want to lead," Khairy said during a question-and-answer session at the 2016 Kuala Lumpur International Youth Discourse held at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) today.
He added that he felt compelled to stand up for Farah Ann because "it is wrong for us to attack" her for her attire choice.
She is an adult who understands religion, he said, so her choice must be respected.
He also said that people must speak up on behalf of women when they are attacked, such as in Farah Ann’s case.
“If you don’t stand up in these cases then more young women will stop playing sports, they will stop feeling empowered because they feel society is projecting something into them,” he said.
He was responding to a question from a student on the empowerment of young women in Malaysia.
All programmes under his ministry have meaningful representation of women, he said, adding that meaningful representation means half of the representation are women.
Young women should be encouraged to be unafraid and take on leadership roles early on, he said.
About 65 percent of those in public universities in Malaysia are women, he pointed out.
“If they graduate and they feel their place in society is in the kitchen, then you will have wasted education on half the population.
“We need to empower them (young women) and stand up for them at every single juncture where they are criticised and attacked,” he said, adding that this is a very important issue in Malaysia.- Mkini