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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 06:29 GMT
Malaysia women 'suffer apartheid'
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian women shop at a mall in Kuala Lumpur
Marina Mahathir says new laws will make daily life worse for Muslim women
The daughter of Malaysia's former prime minister has launched a scathing attack on the roles and status of Muslim women in the country.

Marina Mahathir, a prominent campaigner for women's rights, compared the lot of women to that of black South Africans under apartheid.

She described Muslim women as second-class citizens who were held back by discrimination.

The comments were written for her regular newspaper column.

The column, which was due to be published in Tuesday's Star newspaper, did not appear.

'Bound and gagged'

Few comparisons could be more hurtful.

Malaysia led by Mahathir Mohamad was in the forefront of the international campaign to end white minority rule in South Africa.

But his daughter Marina has described Muslim women in Malaysia as subject to a form of apartheid - second-class citizens held back by discriminatory rules that do not apply to non-Muslim women.

Her outburst appears to have been prompted by recent changes to Malaysia's Islamic family law that makes it easier for Muslim men to take multiple wives, to divorce them and to take a share of their property.

The women's ministry encouraged female lawmakers to vote for the measures, saying they could be amended later.

That prompted widespread criticism and has led Miss Marina to suggest the ministry be split in two - one to help non-Muslim women fight discrimination, the other to keep Muslim women, in her words, bound and gagged.

However, compared to many other countries both in South East Asia and the wider Muslim world, Malaysian women - Muslims included - play a prominent role both in business and public life.

Row over Malaysian family laws
22 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia: Islam and multi-culturalism
07 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
30 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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