What has happened to the Harapan women?

What has happened to the Harapan women?
By Zan Azlee

What is happening with the Pakatan Harapan women? It’s as if their tongues have been bitten off ever since they won the general election.

First of all, what has happened to the cabinet? It doesn’t look like the promise for 30 percent women representation in government has been fulfilled.

Initially, I didn’t want to make too big a fuss about it because the full cabinet lineup had not been announced yet. But now that it has, it is obvious that Harapan totally disregarded their promise to empower women. There are six women ministers (with Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail being counted twice, as she occupies two posts). That makes it only 21 percent.

And what have the women in Harapan done? They just keep silent like nothing is wrong.

What’s the point of making a promise and not keeping to it? What’s the point of Malaysians fighting so hard for gender equality when the very women leaders they were supporting just become lame?

We have men who have been appointed as ministers who don’t even have a fraction of the experience and qualification of most of the women representatives. What happened to these strong, independent and qualified women now? Why are they taking this so quietly?

‘Losing their bite’

It seems like the women of Harapan have lost their bite.

Take the recent underage marriage involving an 11-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man in Kelantan. What did our minister of women and family development, who is a woman of course, do? She made a few neutral statements and then said that a probe will be done into the matter.

The minister, Wan Azizah (photo), who was the opposition leader before, would have been more vocal then. All the women in the opposition would have screamed their lungs out calling for action to be taken and that we are living in a barbaric and misogynistic world.

Now that they are the government, all they have to say about the matter is that a probe will be conducted? Not only that, the minister said that the marriage should be seen holistically and it still needs to be determined if the case involved paedophilia or child exploitation.

Give me a break! The child is 11-years-old and the man is 41-years-old. Does that not scream paedophilia and exploitation already?

And so what is up with these Harapan women? They are now in a position of power and can actually do something about it, and they choose to be lame ducks. How wonderful for all the voters who voted for them. How wonderful for me to have voted for them.

Can’t the minister and the rest make stronger statements? They can come out and say that there needs to be new laws in place to make it illegal for underaged children to be married. They can say that this issue will be brought up to Parliament and that actions will actually be taken.

They shouldn’t be making statements as if they think the existing laws make sense and that they will investigate the matter to see if the law was broken. They need to make statements to show that they think the law makes no sense and that it needs to be changed. I mean, it is Malaysia Baru, right?

I understand that we are still within the period of the first 100 days. But show us Malaysians that you are doing something. We demand that you rise up and stand up for what you believed in before the elections. I still believe that the women in Harapan have the same stand. I am just very perplexed that they have become lame ducks.

The fight against corruption is already seen as something that is going on as planned. But that isn’t the only thing that is important. Malaysia needs a lot of fixing and changing. That is why we elected the coalition that had promised us all that change. So now we demand that. Buck up quick!

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!


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