The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) expresses grave concerns regarding the standard operating procedures (SOP) that determine mothers to be unfit to care for their children, which was released to the general public by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Nancy Shukri, and reported by Malaysiakini under the headline “Nancy: SOP determining women as ‘unfit’ mothers to be made public.
It is essential to recognise the importance of ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of children, which is a responsibility shared by both parents, but also to a larger degree, the community and other institutions.
In February 2022, The Star reported that approximately 50 per cent to 80 per cent of mothers experience postpartum depression, and this is a statistic that is on an increasing trend in developing countries.
The focus on the role played by women in the household, particularly in domestic and care work, but also in parenting and nurturing children, is an overwhelming responsibility to be put solely on their shoulders. Women are also human and experience a range of human emotions.
JAG also expresses deep concerns regarding the potential for discrimination in these SOPs based on gender and gender roles.
Any procedures put in place to evaluate parental fitness must prioritise the best interests of the child and be carried out in a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner.
It is critical that any guidelines established for determining parental fitness do not discriminate based on gender. We agree that it is crucial to question why there seems to be a focus on mothers’ fitness without corresponding procedures for fathers.
Equality in parenting is fundamental so as to not deny the child their rightful access to receive love, care and guidance equally from both parents, which is likely to result in healthy mental and emotional growth.
The Department of Social Welfare (JKM) must exercise its powers judiciously and in a manner that respects the rights of both parents, and prioritises the best interests of the child.
We call for a thorough and inclusive review of the SOPs discussed by Minister Nancy Shukri to ensure they are fair, non-discriminatory, and reflective of the best interests of the child. An initiative to support parents, including possible parenting classes for both parents should ideally be provided to families undergoing this SOP.
Endorsed by Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG):
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
- Family Frontiers
- Justice for Sisters
- KRYSS Network
- Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
- Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO)
- Sisters in Islam (SIS)
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is a coalition of 14 women’s rights organisations in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak. Since 1985, JAG has been advocating for gender equality and social justice in Malaysia within a feminist framework.
We leverage our diverse expertise and amplify women’s voices to raise public awareness and advocate for law reform. We uphold international human rights standards in promoting justice, equality, and non-discrimination.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Ova.