Human Rights Watch has condemned Malaysian authorities’ investigations into the organizers of last weekend’s Women’s March in Kuala Lumpur, in conjunction with International Women’s Day.
Hundreds of marchers, from several of Malaysia’s ethnic groups, took to the streets to call for an end to violence based on gender, and sexual orientation, freedom over women’s bodies, an end to child marriage, the raising of the minimum wage, and an end to the iron-clad patriarchy that rules over much of society.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia director was clear in his concern over the matter, reminding the public at large of what our newly elected government had previously guaranteed:
“The Malaysian government promised in its election manifesto to get rid of the notorious sedition law, yet it is now using it against organizers of the Women’s March,” said Brad Adams.
“This is shockingly hypocritical. The authorities should immediately end the investigation and restate its commitment to protecting the rights to peaceful protests and speech.”
“Media reports [on the march] have shown that the organizers have provided the requisite 10 days’ notice to the police. There is no reason for the police to investigate the organizers under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, as the requirement under Section 9(1) of the said Act appears to have been complied with.
“As for the Sedition Act, it is a colonial vestige that is draconian, repressive, and has no place in any democratic country,” said Syahredzan, adding that dissent is the democratic right of every citizen.
He too reminded the government of their pre-election promises, highlight that they had previously claimed they would be repealing the Sedition Act.
Earlier this week, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religion, took to his Facebook account to express his ire with some of the topics that those marching were protesting against, although he stopped short of specifying.
“I am very shocked with the actions of certain quarters today that misused democratic space to defend things that are wrong in the religion of Islam,” he wrote.
He later went on to highlight the LGBTQ+ presence at the march: “As I have said before this, the government is very firm that LGBT practices will not be accepted at all in this country. How is it possible that we recognize an act that is wrong in law?
“Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also stressed about this matter,” he said.
“In relation to [the] gathering, I leave it to the Home Ministry that has the legal powers to act and take firm action.”