Finally, the wait is over and the winners have been announced and crowned at the Fourth AiyohWatLah! Awards.
The awards ceremony was held at Sarang Paloh, Ipoh, Perak and hosted by the irrepressible Ribena Berry, Jo Kukathas.
“This is the first time we’ve crowned ‘deserving winners’ outside of Klang Valley. We’re so pleased to be hosting the event for the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) this year and welcoming our sisters and supporters to Ipoh!” says Perak Women for Women (PWW) President, Halida Mohd Ali.
Over 160 guests and members of the public turned up to show their support and enthusiasm for this year’s AiyohWatLah! Awards show - the largest crowd since the event’s inception.
“It was really rewarding to be able to take the awards to Ipoh this year and reach a whole new demographic of people who we had not been able to before. We hope that in the coming years we can reach even more states”, said Women’s Aid Organisation’s (WAO) Advocacy Manager, Yu Ren Chung.
More than 1,300 people, both locally and internationally, voted to choose the winning public statements, actions and policies in the various awards categories. These categories were developed by JAG in order to represent the areas in which sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia exist in public discourse - ‘Insulting Intelligence’, ‘Foot in Mouth’, ‘Least Helpful to the Sisterhood’, ‘Cannot Ignore’, ‘Policy Fail’, ‘Enough Already’ and ‘Right on Track’.
“We couldn’t wait to reveal this year’s winners because of the enthusiastic response we received from the public. We are so glad to have Jo Kukathas host the awards for the 4th year in a row. The audience absolutely loves her and so do we!”, exclaimed All Women’s Action Society’s (AWAM) Assistant Programme Manager, Lee Wei San.
Let’s take a look at this year’s winners.
The statement, “Most Malays are sensitive to [the rape of] teenage girls..Non-Malays are probably less sensitive towards this,” bags the ‘Foot in Mouth’ category with 85% of the votes. This was Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar’s statement in response to the report that statutory rape figures are higher in the Malay community , using ethnicity as an excuse instead of giving the issue serious attention.
Taking the title for ‘Insulting Intelligence’ is the statement that same sex marriage, particularly among lesbians, threatens mother-in-laws because their daughter’s partner’s, may have bigger breasts than them. This statement by Head of Ampang Division (UMNO), Ismail Kijo, led the way with 44% of the votes. Coming in close, with 36 % of the votes, is Utusan Malaysia’s article which proclaimed that the increase in attendance of LGBT persons in political protests will lead to nude parades and kissing by same-sex couples in front of Dataran Merdeka.
Winning the ‘Policy Fail’ at 42% of the votes, is none other than the Kelantan State Government (PAS) for banning male spectators at netball tournaments, and for enforcing strict dress codes for female players regardless of religion.
Winning the ‘Cannot Ignore’ category is the ill-treatment of a child victim of the largest gang rape recorded in Malaysia, by remanding and handcuffing the 17 year-old victim and treating her as an accomplice, instead of supporting her after the trauma. At 55% of the public votes, this ‘award’ went to the Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM).
Taking the limelight for all the wrong reasons in the ‘Least Helpful to the Sisterhood’ category with 40% of votes is the statement that women should not ask for so much from men, but should instead persuade them with their ‘secret weapon’. This statement was made during the opening of the Legal Advisory and Women’s Aid Centre (LAWA) by the wife of Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Rosmah binti Mansor. Instead of empowering women, the statement perpetuates a culture of victim blaming and appeals to false myth of ‘feminine wiles’.
For the category of, ‘Enough Already’, 48% of the voters chose repeated acts of discrimination and violence against women in politics. As a woman in Malaysian politics, among others, you may be ridiculed on the basis of your biological functions, find fake photos of yourself circulated, insulted on the length of your skirt, or told that you should not be a leader in order to preserve your purity and honour.
“One of the biggest trends we see in the AiyohWatLah! Awards every year is the discrimination against female politicians. The fact that almost 50% of voters chose this winner goes to show that the Malaysian public is tired of this repetitive pattern”, said Sisters In Islam’s (SIS) Programme Officer, Own Mohd Noor.
Making positive strides towards gender equality, under the ‘Right on Track’ category with 37% of votes is the landmark Court of Appeal judgment declaring Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 1992 as unconstitutional. This section penalises Muslim men who dress or pose as women in public places, and has a disproportionate impact on transgender women. According to Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yusuf, “Section 66 directly affects their [transgender women] right to live with dignity as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution by depriving them of their value and worth as members of our society.”<