Gender Equality in Malaysia

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Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction and human development. By 2005 it had achieved all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Throughout much of the post-independence era, Malaysian women and girls have enjoyed equal opportunities with men and boys in access to basic social services. Women have been increasingly mainstreamed into development processes, and by playing a variety of roles at the family, community, and society levels, they have been able to contribute to national development and prosperity. In the earlier years, the issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly reverberating through society for decades. The different religions and cultures of Malaysia have many positive aspects in women's lives. However, it is also the case that women are discriminated against by their religions and cultures, which perpetuate stereotyped gender roles and protectionist and patriarchal attitudes towards women. First at all, the “family” remains culturally at the centre of Malaysian life. A 1999 WAO report, 'Monitoring the Fulfilment of the Malaysian Government's Obligation to Women's Equality: A Baseline Report on marriage and Divorce', shows how Malaysian women face much discrimination in the area of marriage and divorce, through attitudes towards expected roles of women, and through the formulation, interpretation and implementation laws. Within marriage, many women are expected to stay in the home, as homemakers and mothers. If women are given the choice to work, many are forced to give their salaries to their husbands. Many women who work before marriage have been ordered to give up their jobs when they marry. The re-naming of the Ministry of Women's Affairs reinforces women's place in the home and family life, while women's other roles in society become secondary. Women who choose not to work also find themselves discriminated against. For example, the Domestic Violence Act (1994) does not protect...
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