Know Your Rights - Register to Vote
Lisa*, recently went for one of her college's talk on violence against women. She wanted to find out more about the issue because one of her housemates, Sharifah*, confided in her that she had to move out of her home because of the violence happening there. Sharifah's father has been hitting her mother ever since Sharifah was a young girl, and sometimes even lashed out at her and her siblings. Sharifah remembered going with her mother to the police station to make a police report, but there wasn't anything they could do because at that point, the Domestic Violence Act 1994 was not in existence. As a result, they had to bear years of violence in silence, as they could not see any way out of it.
From the talk, Lisa found out about a range of discrimination against women that was happening in Malaysia: sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence and a host of other forms of gender-based inequalities. She also learnt about how the Domestic Violence Act was finally tabled after the women's movement lobbied for it for almost ten years. She wished that it had happened when Sharifah went with her mother to report about the father's abuse. Then perhaps things might have turned out differently for Sharifah and her family.
Lisa knew that the Federal Constitution was recently amended to uphold non-discrimination on the basis of gender, but she didn't realise that women in Malaysia still did not enjoy the same rights as Malaysian men. She wanted to do something to help ensure that women's rights in Malaysia are protected and upheld. What are her options?
As the first step to ensure that the rights of women in Malaysia are protected and prioritised, what Lisa can do is exercise her right to vote. With that, she can help to ensure that the democratically elected Members of Parliament and State Assembly Representatives will accurately reflect her concerns as a Malaysian citizen. She can vote for representatives who: believe that women are equal to men; lobby for women's rights and bring reform to laws and policies that will eliminate discrimination against women.
Lisa has been proactive in finding out more about the status of women in Malaysia. She can further educate herself by keeping herself abreast with current issues and developments that affects women; reading the newspapers, surfing the web and being receptive to other forms of news media. With that, she will be able to make an informed decision on what her concerns are and who to represent them.
Apart from that, she can also join any signature or petition campaign to the Government that she believes to be an important issue. These happen throughout the year organised by various civil society interest groups. Another space for her to voice her thoughts or opinions would be newspapers. If she feels strongly about an issue, write a Letter to the Editor. The email, fax number and address are usually printed where the Letters to the Editor columns are.
In addition, Lisa can also join or volunteer at any women's organisations that provide direct services to survivors of violence, advocate for reforms to end discrimination against women and/or do public education programmes. There, she will be able to utilise her skills and ability to further help end violence against women, and advocate for gender equality. As a Malaysian citizen, she has a fundamental right to ensure that her concerns are heard and her rights are protected.
How do I register to vote?
- You have to register to be a person on the electoral roll to ensure your right to vote during the elections.
- You can now register to vote throughout the year at any post office, State Electoral Office or Mobile Registration in public areas. Starting from 1 July 2002, you can register to vote every day during working hours.
- To be eligible, you must be a Malaysian citizen, at least 21 years old and residing in a constituency.
- To register, go to any post office or the State Electoral Office.
- Bring your identity card (IC) with you, and fill in Form A (Borang A), which has four sections. You will not have to pay for this form.
- As proof of your registration, tear off the attachment in Section IV of Form A, and keep it with you.
- This entire process should only take you about 20 minutes, and you will help to bring real changes to women's lives.
Important facts to know when filling up Form A:
- Application's name should follow the name on the Identification Card. Use BLOCK LETTERS.
- Include the correct Identification Card number:
o New Identification Card Number
o Old Identification Card Number
- If the applicant does not have an Old Identification Card number, please state "NONE"/"TIADA" at the stipulated area/box.
- The applicants' address should be the full permanent and contactable address (please state the postcode).
- State the type of application; new application or application to change the address.
- Get and keep the attachment of Section IV of Form A as proof of registration.
If you need further information, you can visit the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya Malaysia website at http://www.spr.gov.my.
*Names changed to protect WAO's client's confidentiality.
Prepared by Jaclyn Kee
Women's Aid Organisation - 20 Years of Service to Women and Children
Fortnightly Column by WAO on Sunday Mail (Reprinted with permission from Sunday Mail)