On the 8th of March 2020—in conjunction with International Women’s Day—the Women’s Day March in Kuala Lumpur continued its purpose. Despite the rising COVID-19 cases in the country. Despite the political tension over the past few weeks. Because there are things worth fighting for. Some of the key messages that the participants of the #WomensMarchMY were rallying for include banning child marriages; the end of all forms of violence factored by gender and sexual orientation; gender equality; equal political participation; as well as putting more emphasis on the climate crisis.
The Women’s March took place in front of Sogo complex in KL and saw people from all walks of life, regrdless of age, race, and gender. After all, feminism isn’t solely about uplifting women, fighting for women’s rights, and everything to do with the female gender. It’s about gender equality. It’s about acknowledging that women should have the same right as men—to vote, to have a political place, to own their bodies and their whole selves, to have a say.
The main message spotted during the #WomensMarchMY 2020, however, was the topic of child marriages. Did you know that there are still seven states in Malaysia that supports child marriages: namely Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, and Perlis. Child activist Hartini Zainudin was heard saying at the rally, “If we like children, we won’t let underage children marry. If we like children, if we want to defend the fundamental rights of children, we won’t let underage children marry.” According to The Malay Mail, she added that there have been about 15,000 child marriages since 2009.
While most women of today have far more rights than say, the 1800s, stereotypes remain; and so do the people who objectify women and the people who consider reports of harrassment or cries of help as playing the victim. It was only in 2018 that Malaysia saw the appointment of Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah as the country’s first female Deputy Prime Minister. And even then, only 9 out of 50 members of the Cabinet of Malaysia were women. Only in 2019 was it announced that “Selangor has amended its state laws on the minimum age for child marriage”.
More can be done, and more can be changed. Here are some of the best picket signs rallying for just that, spotted at the Women’s March 2020 in KL:
“It’s my body. Don’t kepoh.”
“Perwakilan wanita 50% di Dewan Rakyat.” (For 50 per cent of Dewan Rakyat to be represented by females.)
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
“A woman’s place is in your face.”
“Feminism is for everybody.”
“Nama saya bukan awek.” (My name is not “awek”.)
“My clothes are not my consent.”
“Of course I support men’s rights. Men’s rights to listen, believe and support women.”
“Girls just wanna have fun-damental human rights.”
“Equal position, equal pay, equal rights.”
“The future is intersectional.”
“Pelajar bukan pengantin.” (Student, not bride.)
“Marriage is not a transaction for your sexual pleasure.”
“What I do with my body isn’t your business.”
“Why don’t you lower your gaze?”
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.”
“Careers have no gender.”
“It’s not radical thinking. It’s basic human decency.”
This text exchange.
“Women won’t stop even after March ends.”
Well said. Just because International Women’s Day falls every March 8, it doesn’t mean the celebration of women and their potential stop there. Just because the Women’s March is an annual event, it doesn’t mean women will stop fighting for what they deserve. As Michelle Obama said: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
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