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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Why is it so difficult to root out sexism in Parliament?


If it is so difficult to root out sexism in Parliament, then how on earth does anyone expect the general population to treat problems relating to sexism with the seriousness it deserves?

On July 20, the MP for Pasir Salak, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, uttered a vulgar word in Malay, in the Dewan Rakyat. His microphone had been switched off, but several witnesses heard him being crude. His behaviour was unacceptable and should not have been allowed in parliament.

The Batu Kawan MP, Kasthuri Patto, in a letter to the Speaker, Azhar Azizan Harun, has demanded swift action against Tajuddin, for sexist behaviour.

Instead of being decisive, the Speaker delegated his deputy, Rashid Hasnon, to deal with the matter. On July 25, the deputy told the House that he would need time to consider if it was necessary to punish Tajuddin at all.

Is Rashid serious? Witnesses are waiting to be interviewed. In his possession is a letter detailing the incident. Moreover, MPs and those who work in the Dewan Rakyat are aware of Tajuddin’s sexist and racist past.

This is not the first time that the Pasir Salak MP has been guilty of profanity and behaviour unbecoming of an MP. Newspaper reports have been published each time Tajuddin misbehaved in Parliament, and outside.

How much time does Rashid need? Punishing someone for sexist behaviour is not some intricate puzzle that must be solved. Tajuddin spoke out of turn, but Rashid appeared to prevaricate when Kasthuri wanted to know when and how he would be punished.

She found it unacceptable that Tajuddin had been treated with kid gloves. When they descended into a furious argument, Rashid punished Kasthuri by ejecting her from the Dewan. Where is his leadership?

If Rashid were a father, and his son were to make sexist remarks at home, towards any other member of the family, or anyone for that matter, would he not take immediate action to stamp out this vile behaviour?

Or is Rashid simply acting out what some heads of Malay households do, which is to shrug off the matter, perhaps laugh it off, because few sons are admonished for their sexist behaviour?

If more heads of the Malay family were to punish their errant sons for their sexism, perhaps more Malay males would grow up having greater respect for women.

It beggars belief that Rashid needed more time to consider if Tajuddin needed to be punished. Either he is afraid of Tajuddin, or is beholden to him. Perhaps, there is an unwritten men-only club in the Dewan, where males who are crude and rude are seldom punished, simply because they are males.

Umno-Baru politicians make sexist and racist remarks without realising that they are insulting others. They do not set an example to the rakyat. They already spend taxpayers’ money with careless abandon. They forget that women make up 50% of the population, workforce, and the electorate, and remain often disrespectful of women.

Malaysian women often find themsevlves the target of sexual harassment and experience a high level of sexism at home, at school, in the workplace, online, in Parliament, and in the media.

The teenager whose teacher joked about rape was villified for “bringing shame” to her school instead of getting support from fellow students.

The one who did wrong was the teacher. The others who saw nothing wrong with his crude and sexist jokes about rape are also in the wrong. Why wasn’t he punished? Is the attitude in schools this bad? Don’t they teach both girls and boys that sexism is wrong? Are our children poorly educated?

Education is not just about mathematics, science, commerce, or art. Education also shows in how you treat your fellow human beings and members of the opposite sex.

At university, women who are victims of sexual harassment also find it difficult to convince the authorities to investigate lecturers who take advantage of them.

How can women flourish and contribute to society when they are belittled, their confidence undermined and their future aspirations curtailed?

Women are shouted at in the streets, at home, and in Parliament. Their appearance is constantly scrutinised. Their sexual conduct is questioned, and yet, the worst sexual behaviour of men like Tajuddin is deemed acceptable.

Instead of tackling the serious issue of sexual harassment of Malaysian women, and punishing sexist MPs like Tajuddin, Rashid is also contributing to the problem and should be ashamed of himself. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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