Saskia Schäfer and Frederik Holst: Anti-Feminist Discourses and Islam in Malaysia
A Critical Enquiry
in Women's Movements and Countermovements: The Quest for Gender Equality in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, edited by Claudia Derichs in cooperation with Dana Fennert, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2014
This chapter addresses the transformative challenges faced by women's rights movements in Malaysia. For several decades, the debate on women's rights in Malaysia and elsewhere has centered on the advancement of the position of women in society. But while openly misogynistic lines of argumentation are becoming less convincing even in conservative sections of society, the challengers of women's rights are employing innovative means to advance their position. This backlash against women's rights can be identified in many societies and is connected to different actors. In Malaysia, where women's rights are legally and politically intertwined with the role of Islam in the country, anti-women's rights discourses are increasingly fought along the normative lines of "proper" and "improper" religious (that is: Islamic) behaviour. In this subject, a number of achievements in terms of women's rights are now subject to public debate, among them sexual liberties and aspects of family law. "Progressive" women's NGOs are thus fighting on several fronts at the same time, and have to address the contradictions that surface in this regard. The empirical part of this chapter deals with the accusations levelled against Sisters in Islam (SIS), one of the most prominent women's rights groups both in Malaysia and internationally. It shows how the discourse on women's rights has transformed and affected SIS' performance and limited their scope of action, making the political opportunity structures for women's rights activists less favourable.
Schäfer, Saskia and Frederik Holst. 2014. "Anti-Feminist Discourses and Islam in Malaysia: A Critical Enquiry", in Claudia Derichs (ed.), Women's Movements and Countermovements: The Quest for Gender Equality in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 55-78.