The saying goes, “BEHIND every successful man, there’s a woman…” I disagree. In reality it’s, “NEXT to every successful man, there’s a woman…” Equality over inferiority/superiority.
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, I’d like to share my dream for Malaysia. A dream for a more progressive and rights-conscious Malaysia.
As I write this, I acknowledge that as a man I am in an undeserving privileged position defined by birth. When polled, 70 percent of Malaysians believe that men are superior than women (Unicef, 2015). Based on a 2013 survey by Talent Corp, only 8 percent of board members of all listed companies were women. In Parliament, women make up only 10.8 percent or 24 out of 222 MP.
For professionals, men earn 23 percent more than women for doing the same job. For skilled workers, the gender wage gap is almost at 40 percent (National Statistics Department).
This signals the gender-inequity which lies in our society.
I dream for a Malaysia where women will no longer be judged by the type of clothing she wears, whether it’s the choice of hijab or the skirt which she chooses. Whether it’s burkini or the bikini. Ultimately, it is the content of that character which matters, not the clothing which she wears.
I dream for a Malaysia where women are treated as equal partners to men, not the opposite. When men go out to date women, they’re a ‘stud’/cool!/Mat Romantis, but when women do so, they’re ‘sluts’/bitch/control-freak, etc. When men smoke, it’s okay, but when women smoke it’s blasphemy. When men lead, they’re natural-born leaders, but when women lead, they’re labelled as emotionally-driven beings influenced by menstruation.
Ultimately, it is the content of the character which matters, not the gender which the person is born into.
I dream for a Malaysia where marital rape will be criminalised. A Malaysia where sexual abuse will not be tolerated, whether it’s in the workplace or the confines of one’s bedroom. A Malaysia where a Malaysian female can be a four-star general of the armed forces. A Malaysia where women can be senior ministers, chief ministers and the prime minister. A Malaysia where not only women challenge the patriarchal structures, but men play a supportive role as well.
Ultimately, we are in this together.
And for the love of Allah, please don’t lecture me that this is against Islam. During seventh century Arabia, female infanticide was commonplace. Prophet Muhammad abolished it. Women in Arabia at that time were essentially considered property and had absolutely no civil rights.
The right to own property
Prophet Muhammad gave them the right to own property and they were extended very important marital and inheritance rights. Prior to Prophet Muhammad, the dowry paid by a man for his bride was given to her father as part of the contract between the two men. Women had no say in the matter.
Prophet Muhammad declared that women needed to assent to the marriage and that the dowry should go to the bride, not the father; furthermore, she could keep the dowry even after marriage.
Khadija was a successful businesswoman even before marrying Prophet Muhammad. Aisha took a leadership role after his death in bringing together the Hadith and another wife played a leading role in gathering together the suras that comprise the Quran.
Don’t blame Islam for misogyny and patriarchy but blame those who seek to use it to oppress women in Islam’s name.
We are all Malaysians. Men and women alike. The fight for gender equality will take time, but if we as the collective partake in the change-making process, I am sure that equality and equity will win.
Let’s fight for these together, forever.
SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is a part-time lecturer at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia and is Asia’s best debater, winning the United Asia Debate Championship in May 2015.
Source : @ Malaysiakini