Drop Section 498 in the Penal Code

Posted on 09 November 2010

Drop Section 498 from Penal Code

TODAY, Women’s Aid Organisation and Sisters in Islam, in solidarity with the global campaign "One Day, One Struggle", organised by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), renew the call for the abolition of Section 498 of the Malaysian Penal Code which restricts a woman’s right to decide on matters relating to her own body.

For the last year women’s groups in Malaysia have campaigned for the removal of Section 498 of the Penal Code on "enticing or taking away a married woman". Unfortunately, no amendments have been made to the law and Section 498 remains.

As women’s groups in Malaysia campaigning for women’s rights and gender equality in a multicultural society, we join hundreds on this day in countries such as Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Iran and Palestine who are taking action against violations on the basis of sexuality.

Section 498 was adopted from the Indian Penal Code, which was drafted at a time when women were perceived as the property of their husbands – passive agents with merely reproductive functions, with no self agency or rational minds of their own.

This perception of women is outmoded and irrelevant in contemporary Malaysia. Every woman has the right to make decisions over her own body. Consensual intimate relationships between adults should not be the government’s concern.

Section 498 contravenes the provision of equality between men and women evident in Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, as well as contravening international human rights treaties that Malaysia has ratified.

As a party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) since 1995, Malaysia should pay attention to Article 2(g) of Cedaw which refers specifically to discrimination within penal provisions and states that parties to the convention should "repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women."

The government’s commitment to women’s human rights will be examined soon at a meeting of the Cedaw Committee. Malaysia was due to report to the committee in 2008, but as yet has not completed its report.

When the report is completed and the government does appear before the committee, the retention of regressive laws such as Section 498 will reflect negatively on Malaysia’s commitment to human rights.

We call on the government to remove Section 498 from the Penal Code.


Sisters in Islam
Women’s Aid Organisation


- Published in The Sun, 9 Nov 2010


Published on December 17, 2010


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