Rights and Reforms under Pakatan Harapan: Islam, Gender, Shariah in “New” Malaysia

Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series


About the Seminar and Speakers

Islamic Legal Reform Agenda in Malaysia

When Tommy Thomas was appointed the new Attorney General of Malaysia, he spoke about reforming ‘60 years of laws’. In the last 3 months, reforms in the civil jurisdiction has triggered a series of attempts to repeal the new Anti-Fake News Act 2018, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA), the Printing Presses and Publications 1984 (PPA) and the Sedition Act 1948. All these were carried out to honour Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto. The law reform process seems to have started in a big way.

Will the birth of New Malaysia provide the same catalyst to the long-awaited legal reform in shariah
jurisdictions? To answer this integral question, several relevant factors that had impeded efforts of Islamic legal reform will be highlighted. Pertinent challenges such as public perception of shariah laws and the judiciary (in the context of human rights) will be given due focus, as well as the ever-complicated issue of the exclusivity of jurisdiction of states on religious matters. The seminar argues that recent controversies involving child brides and public caning of shariah offences, which has triggered public uproar, demand amicable solutions.

The discussion continues with a cursory glance into the recently established High-level panel on the Federal Institutions of Islam by the Council of Malay Rulers.  Will the setting up of this panel be effective enough to put Islam in its rightful place as provided for in Article 3 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution or would the setting up of a permanent legal reform commission  under a Parliamentary Act be more effective? It is hoped that an effective way forward can be ascertained to pave the way ahead for a successful Shariah legal reform.

Professor Dato’ Sri Dr Zaleha Kamarudin is an internationally acclaimed academic. She is a legal expert, an award-winning researcher and the author of 25 books. She was appointed the first female rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia, making her the first woman to head an Islamic university in the Muslim world and also first woman to be appointed as a Shariah Appellate Court judge in Malaysia.  She is also a member of OIC Women Advisory Council.

She chairs the Malaysian Muslim Women Panel and a member of the Selangor Council of Religious Affairs and the Fatwa Committee of Selangor and Pahang. She is also a member of the Technical Committee on Sharia and Civil Laws, Department of Islamic Religious Affairs, Prime Minister’s Department since 2005 until present and serves as an appointed member in the National Religious Council.

Discoursing Gender in “Malaysia Baharu”: (Re)Newed Hope or “Same Old”?

In the immediate aftermath of the Malaysian 14th General Election (GE14), there was a somewhat cautious euphoria amongst many women’s and gender equality advocates about what the new government could bring in terms of reform in the society to achieve gender equality and social justice.  The appointment of a woman Deputy Prime Minister, although quite apparently a political move, gave some hope that because she is a woman of high intellect and tenacity, there is better access for women’s voices to be heard and heeded in the government. The increased, but still far from impressive, number of women in Parliament and the cabinet of ministers also offers a good premise for hope. After a hundred days and more, however, there may be a sense amongst activists that there is still a lot more work to be done in getting the government to pay real attention to discourses and demands for gender equality.

This presentation revisits selected issues impacting women in Malaysia to discuss their status and development. These issues include women’s positions in politics and work and gender-based problems that hinder women’s equal enjoyment of rights as citizens (e.g. violence against women and equality in marriage).  In discussing these, various recommendations that have been made are also revisited to see how far they been have adopted and what more is needed from the government.  The presentation will also make references to the government’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other relevant international documents in making a case for state action in promoting and achieving gender equality in the country.

Noraida Endut is the Director and a Professor of the Centre for Research on Women and Gender (KANITA), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).  She is trained in the field of law but has developed interest in gender studies while pursuing her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, during which she wrote a thesis on the legal aspects of domestic violence in Malaysia. She currently has research interests in the areas of women and the law, women in Islam, violence against women, gender and masculinity, gender and education and women and economic empowerment.  Noraida is a Council Member of the Asian Association of Women’s Studies (AAWS) and a Director on the Board of the International Women’s Rights Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP). She is also a project partner and the Regional Consultant (Asia Pacific) for the Due Diligence Project on Violence Against Women (duediligenceproject.org). She coordinates and is involved in training programmes for capacity building of women, most recent of which are the Harspwell ASEAN Program in Women’s Leadership (2017-2020) and the Ewha Global Empowerment Program 2018. In 2017, Noraida Endut was engaged as co-consultant for the project “Final Evaluation of Partners for Prevention (P4P) Regional Joint Programme for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in Asia and the Pacific (Phase II)” and between 2017 and 2018 she headed a project funded by the UN Gender Theme Group (GTG) and in collaboration with the Middlesex University, on sexual and reproductive health rights of migrant workers.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 18 October 2018.


Oct 19 2018


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2