Malaysia (CEDAW 14-03-2018)
The Committee considered the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Malaysia (CEDAW/C/MYS/3-5) at its 1572nd and 1573rd meetings, on 20 February 2018 (see CEDAW/C/SR.1572 and CEDAW/C/SR.1573). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/MYS/Q/3-5 and the responses of Malaysia are contained in CEDAW/C/MYS/Q/3-5/Add.1.
D. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
- The Committee commends the State party for the progress made in ensuring access to education for girls and women, as reflected in the high levels of literacy and educational attainment. However, it notes that women still remain underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated fields of study at the tertiary level, such as engineering, mathematics and physics. The Committee also notes with concern the significant difference in the percentage of men and women holding leadership positions in higher educational institutions. It further expresses concern that sex education in public schools is influenced by religious morals and focused on abstinence rather than following a human rights-based approach. The Committee also regrets the lack of information provided by the State party concerning the educational attainment of girls who have married before the age of 18 and the percentage of girls who have continued to pursue an education during and after pregnancy. The Committee further regrets the bullying of students, including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, and the lack of information on the policy of sending bullies to training programmes in military institutions as a corrective measure and on the impact of such a policy on the right to education of girls.
- Recalling its general recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the right of girls and women to education, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to encourage girls to choose non-traditional fields of study and career paths such as engineering, mathematics and physics, and to eliminate traditional stereotypes and structural barriers that may deter girls’ enrolment in such fields;
(b) Identify the underlying causes of the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in higher educational institutions and use temporary special measures and other specific measures to address the disparity;
(c) Introduce comprehensive age-appropriate and human rights-based sexuality education as part of the school curricula, which includes information on sexual and reproductive health and responsible sexual behaviour and the importance of concepts such as consent and gender-based violence;
(d) Collect and publish data on the educational attainment of girls who have married before the age of 18 and the number and percentage of girls who have continued to pursue an education during and after pregnancy, and include such information in its next periodic report;
(e) Adopt anti-bullying policies based on alternative strategies, such as counselling services and positive discipline, and undertake awareness-raising measures to foster equal rights for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students.
Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons
- The Committee is concerned at reports of harassment of, and discrimination and attacks against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons by State authorities, including the police, members of religious institutions and private citizens. It notes with concern that their situation is exacerbated by the discriminatory laws and policies of the State party.
- The Committee recommends that the State party undertake awareness-raising measures to eliminate discrimination and negative stereotypes against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons. In particular, it recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend all laws that discriminate against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, including the provisions of the Penal Code and Syariah laws that criminalize same-sex relations between women and cross-dressing;
(b) Apply a policy of zero tolerance with regard to discrimination and violence against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, including by prosecuting and adequately punishing perpetrators;
(c) Expedite measures to discontinue all policies and activities aimed at “correcting” or “rehabilitating” lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons.
Women human rights defenders
- The Committee is concerned about reports that women human rights defenders, in particular those advocating for the rights of Muslim women, the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons and democratic reforms, have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, harassment and intimidation by State authorities and members of religious institutions, including through the adoption of fatwas against women’s organizations working on the above-mentioned issues.
- The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that women human rights defenders can freely undertake their important work without fear or threat of arbitrary arrest, harassment or intimidation, including the issuance of fatwas by religious institutions, by fully guaranteeing their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. It also recommends that the State party provide capacity-building on women’s rights and gender equality to law enforcement officials, members of the judiciary and members of religious institutions.