LACK OF GENDER SENSITIZATION IN MALAYSIAN LAWS AND REGULATIONS: NEED FOR A RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH
Malaysia continues to have a mixed record on human rights issues, partly explained by some idiosyncrasies in the laws and regulations pertaining to women. Clearly, there has been some neglect on the women folk in nation building. To put into perspective the treatment towards women workers and their rights, one has to first understand the role of women in the Malaysian labour market, and second, the Malaysian laws and regulations pertaining to the employment of women. The paper therefore appraises historically the changing role of women in the labour force from the colonial days to the present, and the evolving gender dimensions embedded in the related laws and regulations. The paper contends that the early economic and political landscape in Malaysia, which viewed women as having complementary roles instead of equal roles with their male counterparts, has given rise to a lack of or limited gender sensitization in the labour laws and regulations. The current move from gender insensitivity to gender mainstreaming, through various policies/mechanisms and programmes in the developmental framework, remains grossly inadequate. It merely reflects lack of operationalizability and social reality of some of the existing labour laws and regulations. This calls for gender equality legislation that emphasizes the centrality of human rights in matters related to equality and non-discrimination.