Reviewing Human Rights in Malaysia (BFM 89.9)

Suri Kempe from Sisters In Islam (SIS) and I shared our thoughts on Malaysia’s human rights situation, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and COMANGO, with Lee Chwi Lynn on BFM’s The Bigger Picture.

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Prelude by BFM:

All member states of the United Nations are subjected to a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) every four and a half years by the Human Rights Council to gauge the extent to which the state under review is fulfilling its obligations to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of people who live in that country. Malaysia was first reviewed in 2009, and was reviewed again on 24th October for the second time.

As part of the review process, the UN would take into account the report submitted by the Malaysian government, various reports compiled by UN agencies, as well as a third report summarizing various stakeholders’ positions. One of those stakeholders is the coalition of Malaysian NGOs, or COMANGO, who is advocating for a more progressive agenda with an emphasis on equality. Another stakeholder is the coalition of Muslim NGOs, or MuslimUPro, who champions a more conservative agenda, which stress upon Malaysia’s unique circumstance as a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country.

Here to articulate COMANGO’s stance is Yu Ren Chung, advocacy officer of Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), and Suri Kempe, programme manager of Sisters in Islam (SIS).

Interview aired on BFM 89.9 on 25 October 2013.


Penal Code Amendments: “Bad Bill Bad Process” (BFM 89.9)

I discussed the amendments made to the Penal Code during the 3rd meeting of the 1st Session of the 13th Parliament, with Sharaad Kuttan on the Morning Run.


Prelude from BFM:

Speaking on behalf of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, Ren Chung explains the position of the NGO coalition about the recently passed amendments to the Penal Code. The statement draws attention to “section 203A, under which someone can be fined up to one million ringgit for disclosing information obtained under any written law” as well as section 326A which while penalising certain types of abuse between married spouses fails to be made consistent with the Domestic Violence Act 1994.

Interview aired on BFM on 23 October 2013.


Aiyoh…Wat Lah?! Awards 2013 (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, JAG)

Explaining the “Aiyoh…Wat Lah?! Awards 2013”, an annual spoof ceremony organised by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) to raise awareness on what constitutes sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and/or transphobia, and to encourage higher standards of behaviour from public figures and institutions in relation to gender and sexuality. The 2013 Awards ceremony was held on 26 May 2013.

Video produced by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).


Aiyoh… Wat Lah?! Awards (BFM 89.9)

Smita Sharma and I promoted the “Aiyoh… Wat Lah?! Awards”, with Umapagan Ampikaipakan and Caroline Oh on the Evening Edition.


Prelude by BFM:

We’ve cringed, looked away, slapped our palms on our foreheads every time we read about or hear what prominent Malaysian figures have to say. And to further express our disdain, our actions are usually accompanied by a very typically Malaysian “Aiyoooooo”.

So, good on the Joint Action  Group for Gender Equality (JAG) for gathering all distasteful comments made throughout the year for fellow Malaysians to read and vote on. The 2nd annual Aiyoh Wat Lah Awards 2013 will reveal whose comments reigned victorious in the issues of sexism, misogyny, homophobia and/or transphobia.

Interview aired on BFM on 2 April 2013.

Get Personal: Yu Ren Chung (The Star R.AGE)



TODAY is International Women’s Day, and we are introducing a young man who is championing women.

Women’s issues concern not only women, but also men. But women are almost always the ones actively championing women’s causes.

It is thus heartening to have advocacy officer Yu Ren Chung at the forefront of the work to promote gender equality in Malaysia.

The 26-year-old engineering graduate has been actively involved in advocating for women’s rights at Women’s Aid Organisation, an NGO that has been on the ground fighting to protect women from violence and other injustices since 1982.

“The objective of our advocacy work at WAO is to influence someone or a body to do something to promote women’s rights,” said Yu. His work includes promoting gender-sensitisation training for frontline police officers to urging the government to better protect women activists through the use of United Nations human rights mechanisms.

The desire to be a part of an impetus for change is the reason Yu joined WAO when he returned to Malaysia after completing his degree in the United States.

As a student, he was involved in projects and advocacy initiatives that addressed climate change and renewable energy. Yu also worked in progressive politics and policy making.

“These experiences, and the people I met along the way, have inspired me to pursue a career to contribute in whatever small way I could towards achieving a more just society,” said Yu.

“What drew me to WAO and women’s human rights in particular was the dire need to improve gender equality in Malaysia,” he shared.

Yu has female family members and friends who have survived domestic abuse, had their car windows broken, faced discrimination at work and stalked on the streets. They have also been victims of crime.

“Though it is probably impossible for me to fully empathise with all these experiences, it’s not difficult to see that women’s rights is important to your loved ones, yourself, and society,” he said.

Yu believes Malaysia still has a lot of room for improvement in becoming a strong advocate for women’s rights.

“Compared to other countries, Malaysia ranks poorly in gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012, which ranked Malaysia 100th out of 135 countries.

“Law reform on women’s rights (in the country) has been slow, and sometimes regressive — for example, with regards to the Islamic Family Law,” said Yu. “The government has also not prioritised fulfilling its international obligations on women’s rights.”

The dedicated activist laments that the talent pool in the Malaysian human rights field is not large enough

While there already exists a passionate and skilled NGO community, the number of people who are willing and able to do the work full-time is still quite small. He is optimistic about the changes in the country though.

“It is extremely encouraging to see in recent years Malaysians from all walks of life taking part in civic life in different capacities, from engaging in intellectual discourse and taking part in peaceful assemblies to starting social enterprises,” said Yu.


This interview was published in The Star R.AGE.


V-Day 2013: Ending Violence Against Women (BFM 89.9)

Ivy Josiah and I talked about the global campaign to help end violence against women “One Billion Rising”, with Meera Sivasothy on The Bigger Picture.


Prelude from BFM:

This Valentine’s Day, there were more than just star-struck lovers celebrating over chocolates and candlelit dinners. V-Day is also known as the international day for addressing Violence Against Women, and was marked across the planet with the One Billion Rising campaign.

Ivy Josiah and Yu Ren Chung from the Women’s Aid Organization in Malaysia talk to Meera Sivasothy about One Billion Rising, and why more campaigners and advocates are turning to men to raise awareness and put an end to the violence.

Interview aired on BFM on 20 February 2013.