Country’s First Women’s Tribunal To Hear 28 Cases

PETALING JAYA, Nov 25 – A total of 28 cases, brought on by women citing unfair treatment against them, will be heard at a people’s tribunal – Women’s Tribunal Malaysia: Reimagining Justice – for two days this Nov 27 and 28.

This first women’s tribunal in the country, which will be virtually conducted, will see the setting up of its very own court, with witnesses providing their testimonials and judges to hear each of the case where a woman has cited suffering the consequence of a discriminatory act against her gender or loopholes in the system that has ended up being unfair to her.

Have these cases been tried in the courts where the women could have gained the justice sought? No, says the Convener of the tribunal, Ivy Josiah, during a recent interview with Weekly Echo.

These cases have not even gone to the courts, simply because of weaknesses in the available system, where they could not have had the recourse in the legal system to find a solution for their case or they might not even have had the access to justice and hence a resolution to their case, said Ivy.

The idea of the tribunal is to first of all hear from the women directly their stories, and not through a programme officer in an organisation.

While some of them will be talking live online, others would have video taped their stories and some have opted to be only heard and not seen.

It is about raising awareness and getting public support and also getting the government to listen up and see where the gaps are in the systems that should serve them. Among others, representatives from the ministries and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will be there, Ivy said.

The Chairperson of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Hilary Gbedemah, is expected to deliver an address at the event.

The 28 cases will encompass eight thematic issues affecting women and the recommendations made for these issues are expected to serve in general other women facing similar issues such as unequal citizenship policies, domestic violence, sexual harassment, inequality at work place and child marriages.

Although it will not be in a real courtroom, this is an attempt to reimagine justice for these women, as the eminent panel of judges who are experts in human rights will hear the testimonials of the witnesses. Advocates will then present their stories within the legal and policy framework.

The judges will come out with their findings and make their recommendations based on the country’s existing commitments towards gender equality.

Although the recommendations will not be legally binding and cannot be implemented, the cases presented and the experiences shared will be a step forward towards promoting gender equality.  

Pointing out some successful tribunals that have been conducted globally, Ivy spoke of the Korean women who were forced into becoming prostitutes for Japanese soldiers during the second World War, and how justice was eventually accorded to them through a people’s tribunal in Tokyo.

As for the upcoming tribunal, the idea is to raise awareness to more people on gender inequality and the need for changes, whether it is changing an Act that is discriminatory to women or filling up the loopholes that enable unfair treatment against women.

It is also about how Malaysia would have to speed up its commitment and obligations to the various global agreements it is a signatory to in the areas of empowering women and children.

For instance, Malaysia ratified the CEDAW in 1995 but 26 years  have gone by and there have been no significant growth for gender equality in social, political and economic spheres, Ivy said.

The November tribunal will be about raising awareness of discriminatory practices against women and getting the cooperation of people who are in a position to bring about changes that can enhance the quality of life for those affected.

The tribunal is a project undertaken by 13 women’s rights organisations under the banner – Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) – and Engender Consultancy.

Apart from the tribunal hearings, an arts festival on Nov 29 has been also organized. The judges’ recommendations are expected to be published on Dec 4.

Further information on the tribunal is available the following site: https://www.womenstribunalmalaysia.com/en#tribunal

–WE