The world is too dangerous, therefore women should be kept at home to be safe. Such logic smacks of a patriarchal attitude that is so prevalent in our society; that women cannot fend for themselves and need to be ‘protected’.
The idea of putting women in true leadership positions, where they lead all Malaysians, not just women, must have seemed too radical to even contemplate.
This week we find ourselves with the very reason why this must happen.
In response to the recent spate of young women being caught overseas for smuggling drugs, the Foreign Minister, along with the Home Minister, intended to propose to the Cabinet that all women travelling alone must get their families’ consent.
(The Foreign Minister subsequently clarified the proposal was only meant for those below 21 years old. However, the Prime Minister has shot the idea down. – Editor)
It is extremely revealing that neither minister saw fit to consult the Women, Family and Community Development Minister on this issue.
Is this because they forgot there is such a minister? Do they view the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry as some junior inconsequential ministry that cannot make “important” decisions like this? Small wonder women have not gotten very far at all.
This “brilliant” proposal requiring women travelling alone to get consent before they do so brings up many questions.
Say this was, by the biggest stretch of the imagination, an appropriate thing to do, how would anyone implement it? Would Immigration officers be required to check that each young woman travelling has a letter of consent?
With our new smart passports, we don’t even talk to any Immigration officer. Will we now see women forced to forgo the machines and queue up instead?
At heart it smacks of a patriarchal attitude that is so prevalent in our society; that women cannot fend for themselves and need to be “protected”. But that protection entails curbing women’s freedom for “their own good”.
That was exactly the logic the Taliban used to keep women at home. The world is just too dangerous. Therefore women should be kept at home to be safe, even though this curbs their access to education, employment and even healthcare.
It’s the same mentality that says that women should be told to cover up so that they won’t get raped, or not carry handbags so that those won’t be snatched. Or that books should be banned so that people don’t get ideas that “may” be dangerous.
It’s a mentality that accepts that the world is a bad place and, worse still, nothing can be done about it. Criminals roam free so people must curb their own freedoms so that they would never get in the way of these bad people. Men are inclined to rape, so women must never provoke them.
Funnily enough, nobody suggests that for the protection of women, men should be locked up since they make up the majority of rapists, bag snatchers, thieves and murderers. This is a real indictment of the police since we seem to accept that they are incapable of doing their jobs.
This mentality pervades all levels of society in every way. We have so little confidence in our own people that we imagine that at the slightest opportunity, they will, in a very childlike way, become influenced.
I attended a forum on the banning of books and heard one person say that we should not allow certain books to be sold because our children might read them.
I had to wonder whether he meant orphaned children with no parents or any responsible adult to guide them or all children. Why do we forget about our own responsibilities to teach our children the right values so that they can judge for themselves?
Sometimes I think we don’t want to do the right thing because it is too hard. Educating people to be more savvy about the people they meet, to be more alert when they travel, to be more critical about what they read are all the tools we need to protect our people, including women and children.
But it’s not easy and it takes time before we see the results. Still, that doesn’t mean we should not do it. Just because we still have car accidents does not mean we should stop road safety campaigns; nor should we ban cars.
Our officials can avoid these types of silly proposals if only they thought of consulting people and getting realistic feedback.
They should consult a wide range of people and then weigh what should be done. They should look at empirical data and see which groups of people are particularly vulnerable. Then, and only then, should they respond.
If an alarming number of women are being duped into criminal activity, then we should be educating women about it with suggestions on how to avoid this folly. Sensational stories in the newspapers alone won’t do it.