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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 19 Sept 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Malaysian Comfort Women’ Joining Islamic State to Serve in Jihad al-Nikah

 New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Sept 2014

 Kyrgyzstan Struggles with Rise of Female Islamists

 Paramilitary Group Trains 'Chastity Patrols' To Ensure Iranian Women Are Well Covered

 Counter-Terrorism Efforts Must Focus On Roles of Women

 Women's Groups Slam 'Discriminatory' UK Advice on Sharia Wills

 Proposal to Curb Practice of Stopping Women from Voting In Pakistan

' It's Now Time to Ban the Burqa', Following Terror Raids, Says Australian Senator

 Muslim Women Challenged On Social Rejuvenation

 Methodist Church wants Hijab banned in its school

 Apply ‘30% Club’ For Women in Politics, Social Activist Marina Tells Putrajaya

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



‘Malaysian Comfort Women’ Joining Islamic State to Serve in Jihad al-Nikah

19 Sep, 2014

School pupils with Hijabs, Photo/File


Reports that Malaysian women, among others, were abandoning their homes and heading to the Middle East to serve in jihad al-Nikah (sexual jihad) as “comfort women” have drawn a combination of disbelief and protests from the Islamic community. The reports have come from Malaysian news sources. Police say they are investigating the reports, which “did not come from official channels.”

The idea of Islamic women working as prostitutes is anathema to Muslim beliefs, but if true it is hardly new. A recent template for this type of activity occurred under the Taliban in the 1990s.

Contrary to most reports at the time, there were brothels running during the militia’s rule.

The male customer, I was informed, would offer to marry the woman. She obliged and they would spend the night together. In the morning the husband would declare “I divorce you” three times, pay a small alimony and the pair went their separate ways – not an uncommon practice in the Middle East.

It was a well-kept secret in Kabul because under the Taliban’s rule such women faced certain execution, which required the toppling of a brick wall onto the condemned, who was subsequently run over by a tank. Death meant absolution. Survival meant she was innocent of the charges.

Times have changed.

According to The Malaysian Insider, Islamic women from Malaysia and further afield in Britain and Australia were packing their bags for the Islamic State, where they intend to serve in a sexual jihad.

Quoting “an intelligence official,” the report also contained nuggets of information that dovetail neatly with other, independent sources.

It details jihad al-Nikah – a concept initiated perhaps a year ago by the Wahhabi sect of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – “where Sunni women allegedly offer themselves in sexual comfort roles to fighters for the establishment of Islamic rule.”

It was described by some as sexual jihad to “boost the morale of fighters battling against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.” Now such “comforts” are being offered by women to fighters in the so-called Islamic State, which will probably come as no surprise to their home governments.

Islamic State leaders, fighting in Iraq and Syria, declared jihad al-Nikah in June.

The report told the story of Malaysian comfort women, with the numbers of British and Australian Muslims serving in the Islamic State rising to 600 and 100 respectively once these women were included in the figures. There are also claims that Islamic State mercenaries have been forcing young women living under their occupation to join the sexual jihad.

It was a timely report, published just before Indonesia announced it would follow Malaysia’s path and establish a de-radicalization centre.

It will be built on 6.1 hectares within the International Peace and Security Centre and run by the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, BNPT, to curb extreme Islamic militancy and prevent convicted terrorists from re-offending.

De-radicalization and rehabilitation centres have had mixed success under different guises.

This time the Indonesians are promising a more holistic attempt, which will expose inmates to much greater psychological and spiritual counselling, in addition to more contact with their families.

The new centre is also spearheading efforts to curb any spread of Islamic State militants to Indonesia, where they are banned.

Media reports had indicated that jailed survivors of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – responsible for deadly attacks on Bali in 2002 and elsewhere –will be among the first inmates at the centre, including co-founder Abu Bakar Bashir and Aman Abdurrahman. Australian embassy bomber Iwan Darmawan, also known as Rois, will probably join them.

Like the women of jihad al-Nikah, all three have declared allegiance to the Islamic State and its caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The de-radicalization centre may one day house female inmates as well.



Kyrgyzstan Struggles with Rise of Female Islamists

19 Sep, 2014

When police searched Dilorom’s house and arrested her for possession of banned religious literature in early 2012, the event shocked her small town in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Dilorom, a retired 57-year-old former communist functionary and mother of three, led a quiet life and enjoyed the respect of her neighbors because she gave free lessons on the tenets of Islam to local women and girls. Adding to the intrigue, upon her release Dilorom (not her real name) suddenly disappeared.

Her whereabouts are still unknown, but some neighbors believe that Dilorom, after paying a bribe to secure her release from jail, is now in Syria with her 40-year-old son, two among hundreds of Central Asians believed to be fighting with Islamist militants.

In recent months, Kyrgyz security forces have arrested dozens of women on suspicion of ties to radical groups, according to local press reports. Officials claim the raids have led to the recovery of banned leaflets and have disrupted extremist cells that were recruiting new female members. One group that is often fingered is Hizb-ut Tahrir, an Islamist political organization banned throughout Central Asia, but which has never been linked to violence and is tolerated in the West.

Concrete information on the workings of radical groups in Kyrgyzstan is sparse, on the role that women play in those groups even more so. Four Hizb-ut Tahrir members approached by declined to comment on the number of women within the organization's ranks. But one activist based in the southern town of Kara-Suu acknowledged that “enlisting support from various segments of society, including women, is one of the major parts of our strategy.”

Overall, the Interior Ministry (which some believes exaggerates the threat to justify repressive police tactics) estimates that women are rapidly growing as a proportion of religious radicals. In December 2013, the Interior Ministry said women constituted 23 percent of the 1,700 known Islamic extremists in Kyrgyzstan, up from 1.1 percent in 2005. Later, a senior official from the ministry said women comprise 7 percent of roughly 1,700 suspects.

Kyrgyz police are suspicious of informal religious study groups like the one Dilorom ran out of her home. Though the goal of these circles is ostensibly to study the Koran, police claim they are breeding grounds for extremists. The police also claim that such informal study circles help recruit women to fight in Syria, or support their husbands in the fight.

“Increasing female involvement in extremism and terrorism is a global trend. Kyrgyzstan is also witnessing the emergence of groups of women that are propagating the ideas of radical organizations,” Emil Jeenbekov, deputy head of the Interior Ministry department that deals with religious extremism, told Radio Azattyk in March.

Jamal Frontbek kyzy, leader of Mutakallim, a Bishkek-based NGO that promotes the rights of Muslim women, told that the majority of women who join extremist groups are recruited by their husbands. “A portrait of a would-be female member of an extremist group is the following: she is from a low-income family, someone who lacks good knowledge of the tenets of Islam, and someone who is pressured by her parents to marry early,” she said.

Extremists take advantage of undereducated women interested in Islam, who have nowhere to turn in mainstream Mosque culture. “Mosques have no specialists who work with women,” Frontbek kyzy said. “Extremist groups, which have lots of money and resources, take advantage of Muslim women’s desire to obtain religious knowledge.”

State repression and corruption are also often cited as causes of radicalization.  Dilorom’s younger son who is a construction worker in southern Kyrgyzstan, said his mother and brother left Kyrgyzstan after her release “because they could not bear the police harassment.”

In 2010 and 2011, Dilorom’s son spent a year in jail on charges related to the ethnic violence that struck southern Kyrgyzstan that summer. Under the terms of his release, he must report to the police regularly. Speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety, Dilorom’s son said local police officers – who are predominately ethnic Kyrgyz, while he is a minority Uzbek – frequently extort money with threats of arrest. Others describe similar treatment. Local human rights activists regularly charge that Kyrgyz police are more interested in shaking down members of minority groups than in protecting their communities.

Observers are divided on the dangers of the rising number of female radicals. One Bishkek-based researcher who specializes in Islamic groups said that authorities' one-size-fits-all approach is undermining their own stabilization efforts; they are not able to distinguish between potential radicals and members of proselytizing groups with no violent tendencies, such as Tablighi Jamaat.

A police officer in Osh expressed frustration with trying to “reason with” female members of Hizb-ut Tahrir, who are “brainwashed,” but argued that “using force will not help.”

Nevertheless, Kyrgyz authorities increasingly rely on punitive measures to counter radicalism, with highly publicized raids and arrests.

That approach explains a fear of the authorities in women like Khalysa, who followed her late husband with their children to Syria, where he was killed in battle. Khalysa says that though she has never been involved in extremist activities, she fears returning to Kyrgyzstan. She expects that if she returned, law enforcement agencies would harass her and her children.



Paramilitary Group Trains 'Chastity Patrols' To Ensure Iranian Women Are Well Covered

19 Sep, 2014

Tehran: "Chastity patrols", created by an Iranian paramilitary group, are patrolling the streets of Iran to force women to go "well covered" in public.

At the beginning of summer, trendy Iranian women started wearing lighter clothes, more transparent veils to cover their hair and slightly shortened sleeves that still end below the elbow.

That tendency prompted the more conservative sectors to demand imposition of "good hijab" in accordance with a much stricter interpretation of the Islamic dress code.

But the Ansar-e Hezbollah group has gone further and organised street patrols in Tehran "to control morality in women", especially young women, who are more relaxed about complying with the Hijab, which requires a woman to cover everything except her face, hands and feet.

The paramilitary group, which has the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claims to have trained and launched "dozens of groups to enjoin good and forbid evil".

The group's 3,000 women and 1,000 men patrol the streets in civilian clothes to warn and intimidate those women who, in their view, violate the rules of decency required by the Islamic Republic.

The secretary general of Ansar-e Hezbollah, Abdolhamid Mohtasham says it is necessary "to crush those who spread corruption".

This development comes shortly after Rouhani, who won an election after promising greater social freedom, said in a speech that behaviour cannot be imposed on people.

"Is it possible to improve culture with vans, minibuses, police and soldiers?" he asked, in a clear reference to the morality police, who also prowl the streets.

"This is a religious dictatorship," Saide, a 29-year-old resident of Tehran said.

She wears an ordinary veil similar to many young women, exposing much of her hair.

Her classmate Sharshani, 26, believes that "this act shows no respect for people".

"Each person should be able to dress as he or she wants" is an idea that has been taking hold in a country with a predominantly young population.

Fatima, who works for a tourism company, points out that "in other (Muslim) countries, such as Turkey, there are women who are veiled and some who are not".

"But those who are veiled do not look down at those who are not, they respect them, but here, they look at us with hatred, just because we wear makeup or nail polish," she said.

"In theory, we cannot expose our hair in the street. But we all show it, but that means we could be stopped at any time. Always walking in fear."

The presence on the streets of some 4,000 Islamic hardliners who do not respond to any official authority will only complicate the situation for those who have a more tolerant view of hijab.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said the patrols would need official authorisation to operate and made it clear that such permission would be forthcoming.

"The interior ministry is responsible for seeing to these issues and will have an appropriate response to the measures," he said.



Counter-Terrorism Efforts Must Focus On Roles of Women

19 Sep, 2014

Seizing the opportunity to gain new audiences and enhance support, terrorists and extremist groups have developed a nuanced and targeted approach to recruiting women.

For example, as part of a social media campaign to extol to women the virtues of jihad in Iraq and Syria, Umm Layth - thought to be a British woman in Syria married to a fighter - tweeted: "The wives of the Shaheed ('martyrs') are the strongest types of women I have come across. Epitome of independent women." To oppose this trend, government and international efforts to counter violent extremism (CVE) need to more proactively engage with women and integrate a gender dimension into CVE policies and programmes.

The presence of women in fighting corps should come as little surprise. Female fighting cadres from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were reputed to be even more ferocious in many instances than their male counterparts, and women figured prominently in leftist militant groups like Colombia's FARC rebels and the Red Army Faction in Germany, as well as groups like the Chechen "Black Widows".

Yet, women have often come as an afterthought in official efforts to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism.

Terrorist groups have unfortunately been ahead of governments, which are often more constrained by protocol and bureaucratic silos, in engaging with target audiences. Al- Qaeda's Inspire magazine dedicated segments specifically to women, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has developed a media strategy that includes Twitter campaigns such as that by Umm Layth.

It is not immediately clear how many of these campaigns are driven by ISIS itself and how many are independent feeds, but the medium allows them to appear to address any potential recruits directly and discuss issues ranging from the mundane to the profound.

For example, one woman has recently tweeted her desire to be the first British woman to kill a US or UK citizen. Others tweet about the joys of living in the "Islamic State" and the camaraderie among women who await news of their husbands' or sons' "martyrdom".

Reports of an all-female ISIS brigade enforcing draconian interpretations of syariah law on women have shocked audiences more accustomed to seeing the all-male Taleban or Al-Qaeda cadres subjugating women in their homes and communities.

This is not to indicate some kind of feminist revolution among Islamist extremists. Many women continue to play traditional roles supporting the men involved in combat operations. Messages like Umm Layth's even strenuously warned that female jihadis should expect to be involved in the domestic sphere in Syria, flatly announcing that it is "completely impossible" for women "to participate in battle", despite important historical precedents in Islam for women's participation in war.

The importance of this debate lies in understanding why women choose to become fighters or suicide bombers.

For some, it represents a proactive choice, an opportunity to challenge societal norms and assert equality in a way that is not available to women outside combat roles. For others, the reasons for joining extremist groups may lie in histories of sexual abuse or coercion by family members as a means of saving face, restoring familial honour or avenging the death of loved ones.

Understanding why women choose to join extremist groups, and what makes them appealing, is critical to developing more nuanced and targeted efforts to counter violent extremism or prevent terrorism. Further research about the impact of violent extremism on women, and their roles in both supporting and preventing it, is sorely needed.

The sophistication of the media strategies developed by Al-Qaeda and its derivative groups, including AQAP (Al- Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and ISIS, also challenges governments and international organisations which are often more constrained in the manner and content of media messaging.

While robust measures may be needed to address immediate security concerns, a more strategic approach to counter violent extremism requires a better understanding of how the underlying grievances affect young people men and women - who are often the most vulnerable to recruitment by extremists.

Analyses of risks and threats need to integrate a gender dimension; counter-narratives need to be carefully tailored to ensure they reach female audiences; governments, institutions and civil society need to more proactively include women both as participants and beneficiaries in order to address these challenges.



Women's Groups Slam 'Discriminatory' UK Advice on Sharia Wills

19 Sep, 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women's rights activists have accused the professional body representing lawyers in England and Wales of endorsing discrimination against women by refusing to withdraw its guidance on Sharia wills.

The Law Society issued its guidance on ensuring that wills drawn up for Muslims comply with Sharia in March, drawing criticism in the local press that it was effectively enshrining Islamic law in the British legal system for the first time.

In an open letter published on Thursday campaigners said the guidance, "a source of immense concern," encourages legal services "to accommodate highly gender discriminatory religious laws that are being increasingly defined by religious fundamentalists in our society".

The guidance informs lawyers that in general, under Sharia, male heirs inherit twice the amount a female heir will receive and that illegitimate children are not heirs.

The letter said the Law Society's failure to withdraw the guidance amounted to a "a gross derogation of duty".

"Are we to assume that when the Law Society refers to equality, it does not include minority women's right to equality?" the letter said.

"Are we to assume that minority women are only to be recognised as different but not equal, and that equality and diversity are mutually exclusive? Are we to assume that the Law Society does not consider minority women as members of the public whose rights and interests the Law Society must also promote through the legal profession?"

According to media reports, the solicitors' watchdog deleted from its website references to professional guidance on drawing up Sharia compliant wills in July.

Law Society officials were not immediately available for comment.

One of the campaigners who signed the letter said many women and girls from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan - now living in Britain - had fled countries where Sharia is practised. Sharia is based on the teachings of the Koran and the practices of the Prophet Mohammed.

"They too have experienced firsthand the discrimination of Sharia law. They have come to the UK in search of safety and to live in a country where women and men are treated as equals," said Diana Nammi, the executive director of the Iranian & Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), at a protest outside the Law Society in April.

"Money is being put before women's rights. There is a lot of money to be made by lawyers from drafting Sharia compliant wills. We cannot allow for women's rights to be sacrificed so that lawyers can cash in," she told protesters.

The last census in 2011 showed that Muslims made up the second largest religious group in Britain with 2.7 million people - compared with the 33.2 million Christians that account for 59 percent of the population of 63.2 million.



Proposal To Curb Practice Of Stopping Women From Voting In Pakistan

19 Sep, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The draft of new election law prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) proposes to expand the scope of the offence of ‘undue influence’ to include reaching an agreement to restrain women from contesting an election or exercising their right to vote.

It calls for empowering the commission to declare the poll void partly or entirely if it finds that women were stopped from voting under an agreement or other grave illegalities have taken place. The ECP may order filing of a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction against persons reaching such an agreement.

This provision is not there in the current election law.

Capturing polling stations may be defined as ‘corrupt practice’

An amendment has been proposed in the law which if passed by parliament will reduce punishment for the offence of capturing polling stations.

The draft also seeks to widen the definition of corrupt practices to include capturing of polling stations and tampering with ballot papers. Earlier these were confined to bribery, impersonation, undue influence and dissemination of false information affecting the result of an election. But the proposed law will relax the minimum sentence of three-year imprisonment prescribed in the existing law for the offence.

Under Section 82 of the Representation of People Act, 1976, a person guilty of this offence is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years or a fine of up to Rs5, 000 or both. But a more stringent sentence has been prescribed under Section 82A for capturing polling stations which specifically mentions ‘not less than three years imprisonment’ extendable to five years, and a fine of not less than Rs50,000 and extendable to Rs100,000.

Under the proposed amendment, seizing a polling station would be dealt with as a corrupt practice and the guilty will be punishable with an imprisonment to the extent of three years or a fine of up to Rs100, 000 or both.

Legal experts are of the opinion that a law envisaging maximum sentence without specifying the minimum will leave the matter to the discretion of the judge concerned.

“If a law prescribed imprisonment of up to three years, the judge can jail the accused for a month, a day or even fraction of a day,” Advocate Asad Siddiqui told Dawn.

The draft law proposes to take away the president’s discretionary power of announcing a date for general elections and makes consultation a mandatory requirement.

A four-fold increase has been proposed in election expenditures to Rs6 million for a National Assembly seat and Rs4m for provincial assembly.

The draft law proposes to eliminate ghost polling stations. Under the new procedure, soon after the appointment of district returning officers and returning officers the commission will provide a list of polling stations to the returning officer concerned.

After physical verification of polling stations, the returning officer will be empowered to make alterations in the list as he deems necessary and publish it for public inspection, inviting objections from the electors to be filed with the district returning officer.

The final list of polling stations, specifying the electoral area of voters entitled to vote in each polling station, is required to be published in the official gazette at least 30 days prior to the polling day.

To discourage non-serious candidates, the security deposit is proposed to be increased from Rs4, 000 to Rs50, 000 for a National Assembly seat and from Rs2,000 to Rs25,000 for a provincial assembly seat. The deposit shall not be refunded if a candidate receives less than one fourth of the total votes cast.

Under the proposed law, secretaries of union councils will be required to submit lists of birth and deaths to the registration officer concerned to help keep the electoral rolls updated.



'It's Now Time to Ban the Burqa', Following Terror Raids, Says Australian Senator

19 Sep, 2014

Conservative Australian Senator Jacqui Lambie has been told to 'get a life' after she echoed a controversial government senator's call for the Burqa to be banned.

The Tasmanian former soldier told SBS she completely agreed with Senator Cory Bernardi's opposition to the full-length garb worn by some Islamic women.

The fiery Palmer United Party senator posted a meme on Thursday night featuring a woman wearing a Burqa and holding a gun which said 'for security reasons it's now time to ban the Burqa'.

The broadcaster quoted Ms Lambie saying: 'I agree whole-heartedly with Senator Cory Bernadi’s comments - and call for an immediate and complete ban on the wearing of Burqas in public.

'People can do want the want in the privacy of their own homes – but for the public safety of our children and families – remove the Burqa.'

Prominent Islamic community spokesman Keysar Trad told Daily Mail Australia Ms Lambie was 'jumping on the phobia bandwagon'.

'I think she should get out more,' Mr Trad said. 'She really seems to me like a misinformed person and should learn a bit more about her fellow Australians.' 

After the largest counter-terrorism operation in the country's history on Thursday, South Australian Liberal Senator Bernardi tweeted: 'Note Burqa wearers in some of the houses raided this morning? This shroud of oppression and flag of fundamentalism is not right in Aust'.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who himself has said in the past he found the Burqa 'confronting', distanced himself from Mr Bernardi's remarks.

'We shouldn't fret about people's faith. We shouldn't fret about what people wear. We should guard against crime. We should protect ourselves against potential terror,' he told reporters.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was scathing about Mr Bernardi's Burqa comments.

'Why on earth is this out-of-touch, out-of-line Senator on a rampage with his ignorant and stupid comments?' he said at a press conference in Canberra.

Last week, Senator Lambie told reporters that people who support Sharia law should 'get out' of Australia.

A spokesman for Senator Lambie was unavailable for comment on Friday morning.



Muslim Women Challenged On Social Rejuvenation

19 Sep, 2014

TO achieve stability in the world, Muslim women must assume their role as the moral fibre of the society and one of the ways they can achieve this is by acquiring spiritual and financial strength. 

Alhaja Habeebat Oladosu of the Islamic and Arabic Studies Department, University of Ibadan, made the remark in Ibadan, Oyo State, in a lecture as part of the celebration of the 15th annual Women Week of the Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society (NASFAT) Worldwide.

In the lecture entitled: “Muslimah: Making a Difference,” held at the NASFAT ground, Samonda, Alhaja Oladosu said societies in contemporary times were in disarray because women had neglected their role as stabilisers.

In emphasising the duties of the Muslim woman within the family unit, and by extension, the society, Oladosu said apart from guarding her husband’s property, the Muslimah serves as the first teacher unto her children.

She made reference to noble women of times past like the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, Aisha and Prophet Isa’s mother, Maryam who, she said, left their footprints in the sands of time.

The lecturer challenged Muslim women to make a mark in today’s world by particularly engaging in professions like medicine, law, teaching and journalism or venturing into desirable businesses.

She, however, asked them to pursue the knowledge of the Qur’an and Islamic jurisprudence to serve as their moral compass in the discharge of their duties.

According to Alhaja Oladosu, women have equal responsibilities to perform on earth in all ramifications as men and as such, they could not afford to suffer from either laxity or extremism.

Earlier, the NASFAT women had embarked on visitations to prison inmates, FOMWAN orphanage and rehabilitation centres and provision of free medical services at the organisation’s clinic.



Methodist Church wants Hijab banned in its school

19 Sep, 2014

The Methodist Church has moved to court seeking orders to stop Muslim students in a public school it sponsors from wearing the Hijab.

In its petition, the church said making the Hijab and white trousers part of the uniform at St Paul Kiwanjani secondary school in Isiolo is tantamount to discriminating against Christian students.

The church’s lawyer said Muslim and Christian students at the school have been living harmoniously and that the school uniform issue only became contentious during an Annual General Meeting on June 22.

During the AGM Isiolo Deputy Governor Mohamed Guleid said that Muslim girls should be allowed to wear the white scarf and trousers as part of the uniform.

In another meeting over the issue, the Isiolo district education officer reportedly said that there will be bloodshed if the Muslim students are not allowed to wear the garments.

The church is suing the Teacher’s Service Commission and the Isiolo district education officer arguing that the Muslim students have been accorded special treatment which is a form of discrimination against Christian students.

The church has been sponsoring the school for the past seven years.

Justice Mumbi Ngugi certified the matter as urgent and directed that the case be heard at the High Court in Meru county.



Apply ‘30% Club’ For Women in Politics, Social Activist Marina Tells Putrajaya

19 Sep, 2014

Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir today dismissed as inadequate Putrajaya's recently announced policy to increase women's participation in high positions to 30%, as it does not cover the critical field of politics where there are currently only two female ministers in the Malaysian cabinet.

She said while the federal government was already two decades behind in announcing such a policy for women, there should still be greater participation in influential political seats instead of just career positions in public and private sectors.

"To me, there is almost no point in having women in 30% of decision-making positions in business when the really important policy decisions are made in the political arena," she told the 2014 Women's Development Forum organised by the Penang Skills Development Centre in Bayan Lepas, Penang.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday said the government was studying the possibility of creating a "30% Club" to increase women's participation at the decision-making level.

Speaking at the Women's Summit 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, he said the government drew up a policy and provided incentives for the private sector to encourage more women to join the workforce and to ensure they were capable of filling high posts.

He also said the number of women holding high positions in the public sector was expected to grow through the Public Service Department fast-tracking the upward mobility of women officers.

Marina today said Muhyiddin failed to mention that the 30% participation of women was in compliance with the UN's Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), signed by Malaysia in 1995.

"This club comes almost 20 years after we signed CEDAW," she said.

She added that CEDAW's stipulation is not just for private and public sector workplaces, but also in the political arena.

She said the Domestic Violence Act 1994 took at least six years before it was passed because there were not enough women in Parliament who would understand its urgency.

She also pointed to the move to amend the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 in 2005 to give men greater leeway on polygamy, which was passed by Parliament but forestalled at the Senate level after an awareness drive by NGOs.

She said women's rights were being chiselled away "under our very noses", largely because such laws were not debated or discussed in public before being passed.

The low proportion of women at just 10% in Parliament and about 8% in state assemblies means that these laws can be passed "stealthily behind closed doors".

She added that there were only two ministers in Putrajaya's 33-member strong cabinet, excluding the prime minister and his deputy.

They are Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim.

"If there were more women in those positions, then they can support one another in pushing for laws and policies for women."

If the 30% allocation were applied in the cabinet, one-eighth of the ministers would be women, some of whom can hold posts in critical portfolios beyond just being in charge of tourism, women's development and so on.

Marina also made a veiled reference to religiously laced opposition by politicians against women like PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail assuming top government posts because of their gender.

She criticised assertions that women could not function well because of periods.

She said the Queen of Sheba, a historical figure, was renowned as a wise and just ruler.

"I would like to remind the politicians who are saying today that in Islamic law women cannot be leaders that the Queen of Sheba is cited in the Quran," she said.