Women and their rights in Malaysia

Remark: Delete before publishing!

Still a few grammatical errors. Also one shouldn’t start an article with ‘because’. Just a formality. Please check again, find a visual and then go ahead an publish!


Because I am doing research about Malaysia several topics came in my mind. In particular the Sharia law and women rights grabbed my attention. My curiosity came from a book that I red named, The Imam’s daughter. In order to understand the women rights in Malaysia, factors such as religion, history, politics and culture should be explained first.

Religion/culture in Malaysia

Malaysia is known as a multicultural country with a variety of different people and religions. The culture is influenced by the Chinese and Indians, however, the heavily influence came from the British and the Arabic culture.

Approximately 60% of the Malaysian population is Muslim, 19% is  Buddhist, 9% Christian, 6% Hindu and 3% practice different traditional Chinese religions.


Religion plays an important role in the daily life of the Malaysian citizens. Malaysia is officially known as an Islamic state and it is the main religion of the country. However, in the constitution of Malaysia it is stated that there is freedom of Religion. As a consequence, all kind of religions are allowed and practiced freely. Despite the latter, the Islam overrules in some ways which could lead to some kind of discrimination.


History in Malaysia

Malaysia can be characterized as a democratic authoritarian, Asian Islamic, developed as well as undeveloped, stable and unstable state. If we look at the political system, Islam is the religion that impacts Malaysian politics. In order to understand the important role of the Islam in Malaysia I will describe the key moments in history that gave the Islam the status its having now in Malaysian politics.


Around the 8th century, the Islam was introduced by several traders from Arabia, China and India . In the 15th century the Islam was established in Malaysia. The sultan became Muslim and was an important person in the history of promoting the future spread of Islam. From this moment in time, the Islam became involved in Malaysian political life. During the centuries the Islam grew. When the English East India Company arrived, the sultan lost all kind of control of his country except the practical control of the Islam. Once the British began to end their colonial empire they created a democratic political system for Malaysia with different representatives from each major ethnic groups (Muslim, Chinese and Indians). This with the reason to decrease the power of the Sultans.


Politics in Malaysia,

The Islam became the major religion of the federation of Malaysia. This to symbolize the importance of the Islam in the country. Since the independence of Malaysia in 1957 the Sharia gets part in court.


The current politic system of Malaysia adopts different types of systems; constitution monarchy, parliamentary democracy and federation.


The constitution monarchy is represented by the king and the federal constitution. Malaysia has 9 kings, so in fact 9 monarchies. The power of the king rotates every 5 years with one of the 5 different kings. Malaysia is the only country in the world with more than one king. The power of the king is not absolute,The constitution stands above the king.

Parliamentary democracy is represented as a system chosen by the own citizens through elections. There is a free choice in elect of vote for their representatives.


Federation is the system of government where the constitution clearly divides the federal government and the state government. The federal government is responsible for intern security, foreigner fairs and economics. The state government merely deals with the Islamic law. Sharia law is the religious law of the Islam or the law made by the actions and words of prophet Muhammed and the Quran. The Sharia law covers several topics such as, public behaviour, personal matters, crime, politics and economics. The definition of the Sharia is based on the words of God as opposed to the Human interpretation of the laws, especially against women. Sharia law is nowadays seen as the most strict legal system in the world. In Malaysia the Sharia plays an important role in personal matters such as, marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.


So here comes my curiosity how does the Islamic law works together with the federal constitution especially on women rights.


 Women rights according to the Sharia law in Malaysia

The Sharia law has strict rules and regulations for Muslim women how to life according to the Islam. (the sharia law is only applicable for Muslims).

Law for Muslimas according to the Sharia Law

  • A female victim of a rape incident cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
  • A woman’s testimony in court, allowed only in property cases, carries half the weight of a man’s.
  • Female genital mutilation, the clitoris should be cut.
  • A woman has to cover and hide themselves in public
  • A woman can only have one husband, however a man can have more than 1 wife. Due to Muhammad can have more than one wife.
  • If a woman wants to divorce a man, his consent is required to divorce however If a man want to divorce the consent it is not required by the women.
  • The man is the house-head and responsible for financial support.naamloos 1
  • In some laws, wife beating is allowed
  • The man owns all the property, except for what the woman owned before marriage because of the dower or bride price.
  • Because a girl becomes a woman after menstruation, there is no specific minimum age of marriage. (between 12-18 years)
  • Women hav lesser inheritance rights than men
  • A lower status than men

These are several restrictions of the Sharia law for women, there are many more rules and regulations for Muslim women.



According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being has their rights and freedom without any form of discrimination. Ratified by the Malaysian government.

  • Every woman has the right to have life, liberty and security
  • Every woman has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and Religion
  • Every woman has the right to not been discriminated and equal protection of the law
  • Every woman has the right to work and equal pay for equal work
  • Every woman has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves or family

Furthermore, on the 5th of July 1995, Malaysia Ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

So to conclude, I found it quite difficult to write this blog about the Sharia law. Especially from a western perspective. My personal opinion and perspective confused me by writing this blog. If I look at the Sharia law which is based on the words of God and the expression of religion. The Sharia law is just a way of practicing religion. However, if I look from a western perspective, I would say the Sharia law is against all Human Rights. Since Malaysia ratified the declaration of human rights it makes it even harder to understand the political system in Malaysia. So what do you think, is Sharia law against human rights? And is it not outdated for a developed place such as Kuala Lumpur to practice this kind of rights?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *