Friday, May 11, 2007

Parliament is now a house of monkeys

Groups slam MPs for making sexist ‘joke’ against women


PETALING JAYA: Several women’s organisations reacted angrily to the sexist remark made by two backbenchers against Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan, saying it was unacceptable.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil is also unhappy with the incident.

“Even in jest, it should not have been done. I would like to request all MPs to show exemplary behaviour, especially on gender issues,” she said yesterday.

On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang had raised the matter of leaks at the entrance to the media centre in Parliament when backbenchers Datuk Mohd Said Yusof (BN-Jasin) and Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) said: “Where is the leak? The member for Batu Gajah also leaks once a month.”

They were let off the hook, however, on Thursday as Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib rejected Fong’s motion to refer them to the Rights and Privileges Committee, on the grounds that she should have filed it when the remarks were made.

Following the controversy, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz had said the words were not offensive and that it was a normal play on words.

All Women’s Action Society president Judith Koh-Loh said Ramli's expression of regret was insufficient considering the enormity of the insult.

“The fact that the august body allowed a ‘joke’ to be made about the function of the female body, without any sanctions, marks another low point in the history of parliamentary debates,” she said.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah said: ”There is a difference between a joke and a demeaning remark. Because of the poor understanding of sexual harassment, the remarks are dismissed.”

Sisters in Islam programme manager Zaitun Kasim said the remarks made by the MPs were completely offensive.

“The remarks they made reflected more on them as they could not think of something better to say,” she said.

Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan said parliamentarians should lead the way in being gender sensitive.

In Kota Baru, IAN MCINTYRE reports that Wanita MCA wants MPs to be more sensitive in future when they speak about women.

“The issue is not about Government versus the Opposition. It is about respecting each other’s gender rights,” the wing’s deputy head Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said.

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