Our Legal Reform Sub-committee was set up in 1998 to expand WCC’s scope of work into various areas of advocacy, through lobbying and campaign activities. Today, the legal reform work has become an integral component of the Centre. The dedicated team of volunteer lawyers and activists who form the Sub-committee have actively engaged in the lobbying and campaign for legal reforms related to women and children. There is an urgent need to advocate legal reforms to effect better laws and policies for Malaysian women and children as a whole.
WCC is a member of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) (formerly the Joint Action Group Against Violence Against Women), a coalition of women’s groups which aims to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination against women as well as to promote gender equality in Malaysia. Much of WCC’s Legal Reform work has taken place within the context of JAG’s campaigns and we continue to work as part of JAG for lobbying and campaigns on gender violence and gender equality.
In terms of specific activities, much of our legal reform work has involved the drafting and submission of memorandums and similar advocacy documents such as reports and letters to the government and other interested parties on key issues. In recent years, WCC as part of JAG, has issued memorandums pertaining to the Domestic Violence Act and the sexual assault provisions of the Penal Code (especially rape and incest), family law, children’s rights, and various areas of the law which discriminate against women.
In 2000, WCC headed a nationwide campaign for a sexual harassment law which is still ongoing. In 2005 the Malaysian women’s groups came up with an NGO Shadow Report to the CEDAW (United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Committee and also formed a shadow delegation to report to the Committee in New York in 2006.
We have also held dialogues with different Ministries and government agencies to highlight existing gaps in the system and recommend changes needed to improve women’s lives. Various talks and presentations are conducted from time to time to raise public awareness of our efforts. Many of WCC and JAG’s lobbying efforts have been highlighted by the media through the publication of our letters and press statements as well as through coverage of our campaigns.