Malaysian socialists on IWD: For women's liberation, equality and freedom

By Nazreen Nizam, PSM women's desk coordinator

March 8, 2012 -- In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2012, Parti Sosialis Malaysia [PSM, the Socialist Party of Malaysia] would like to commemorate women’s pursuit of liberation, real justice, equality and freedom.

This year is the 101st year we are celebrating International Women’s Day. Thanks to our leftist and progressive comrades who proposed such an idea, back in 1910. The United Nations theme for the Women’s Day celebration this year is "Empower rural women – End hunger and poverty’.

While it is true that majority of our rural women, especially in East Malaysia, are living in poverty, the urban women too are deeply distressed with their low income jobs, lack of social security, discrimination at the workplace and home, long work hours, lack of child-care facilities at the workplace, and the list could go on. The women are further burdened with the government’s neoliberal policies which led to privatisation of all basic needs that keeps the cost of living high. There are still many girls and women out there, both in rural and urban areas, who are illiterate.

No doubt, there has been much remarkable progress among Malaysian women in self-advancement and capitalism did contribute to that, but as a working class, we are still the oppressed class.

One good example, is the 14-year struggle by Guppy Union which was led entirely by women workers. They fought to get recognition status for their union and ended up being victimised by their employer, Guppy Plastic Industries. Three of these women leaders recently lost their case in the Appeals Court that endorses the union-busting bosses. Also the struggle of nine women workers from the same company who are fighting a 10-year legal battle against their employer’s discriminative policy of forcing women to retire at 50, while the men retire at 55. Existing laws are not favouring the workers -- they are created for the oppressors!

Given the current belligerent trends against women’s rights in Malaysia – the struggle of women’s liberation in  seems to be more and more distant. Every day we still hear of our women being exploited, denied land rights, sexually harassed, raped and murdered. The PSM is still seeking justice for the women who were harassed last year during the arrest of the PSM 30. While we have lodged many reports, nobody has been charged.

In order to go forward, in connecting our young generation and in inspiring our futures to win this struggle of liberation, we need to learn of those triumphs that were won over the years by our foremothers. We need to learn the lessons of history that taught us to build a women’s liberation movement that is inclusive, active and unbending in its quest of equality, justice and freedom for women.

We must remember that the struggle for women’s liberation is not only a struggle of women against the embedded patriarchy system but also a struggle against the oppression of class society.

Strategies must therefore be developed to build coalitions with other oppressed groups so that we may educate each other about our different or similar experiences of oppression and strengthen the link which brings us together to fight for an end to class society and discrimination.

We must also strongly demand the construction of a society in which everyone has the same life choices and opportunities, irrespective of race, religion, class, gender and sex.

We believe that the only movement that can defend and extend women’s rights and fully liberate women is a mass movement -- a movement that addresses the needs, demands and aspirations of the majority of women and men.

Happy women's day!