On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Leaders must behave decently

IS ANYONE at all surprised by the statement from PAS Member of Parliament Abdul Fatah Harun that women divorcees are gatal (randy)?

This is not the first time such a sexist remark has been made in the august chamber and we can safely say that it won't be the last.

Malaysians should have, by now, become accustomed to the foot-in-the-mouth disease afflicting some of our legislators. From name-calling and sexual innuendoes to intimidation, subtle threats and racist remarks, we can expect all this and more at every Parliament session.

On Wednesday, Abdul Fatah Harun, the MP from Rantau Panjang, found himself a major news item. Indeed, for the first time, this almost-unheard-of politician had his photograph on the front page of many newspapers.

He gained notoriety for his question on whether some women who divorced their husbands were more intent on getting separated. He claimed that these single mothers did not look like they were sad about their divorce.

Saying that this was based on his observation at gatherings and parties, he said the women seemed to be gatal.

Abdul Fatah added that it was quite obvious why the women ended up divorced or why their husbands left them. Most of them were divorced because they were gatal, while those widowed were better behaved, he concluded.

The Islamist party's Terengganu leader cannot claim he had been misquoted, which politicians usually do when they talk themselves into a corner.

When outraged MPs demanded that he retract his remarks, he tried to get himself out of a tight spot by saying that he was merely referring to a small group.

Abdul Fatah is not the only one who have made such remarks. Recently, Jerai MP Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin, who thrives on controversial statements, blamed women who wear "indecent clothes" for rape.

"Clothes can be indecent too. That's why rape happens. Clothes play a part when someone becomes a rape victim. Screaming and shouting are also indecent. These things are beyond our culture and religion," he said.

Badruddin escaped national criticism because his quotes were only reported in one newspaper and picked up by a couple of news websites.

The Barisan Nasional MP had chosen to ignore the fact that, in numerous rape cases, the victims had been decorously clad in tudung and that many of the cases had taken place in conservative areas, including Kelantan and Kedah. These are states not known for their nightlife or women in provocative attire.

Children in school uniform, and grandmothers too, have not been spared by rapists. Should Badruddin blame them too then?

Rape is often a planned crime, not an impulsive act. A high percentage of rapists were known to their victims. Many were friends and relatives, even fathers.

If indecent attire was the major cause of rape, then we could simply impose a ban on such clothing, as Kelantan and some West Asian countries had done. There would then be no more rape, if Badruddin's logic holds true.

In April last year, Chong Eng (DAP – Bukit Mertajam) and Fong Po Kuan (DAP – Ipoh Timur) found themselves targeted by some MPs. One MP implied that Fong's assertive character was a typical reason many Malaysian women were single.

The uproar started innocently enough with Kota Melaka MP Wong Nai Chee talking about the rising number of divorce cases in Malaysia. At that point, Badruddin sought clarification from Wong, asking "what type of man would last with someone like the MP from Batu Gajah."

In 2000, Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN – Sri Gading) touched a raw nerve when he started his speech by saying "it is unusual for women's issues to be touched (raised) by men" and after a pause, he added: "But women are supposed to be touched by men."

When Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN – Kinabatangan) asked why single women found it hard to remarry, Mohamed reckoned that it was generally due to their not-so-favourable age. He then added: "Men, when it comes to younger women, they will definitely drool."

Our Yang Berhormat expect to be treated with honour and respect because they are supposed to be VIPs, and most of them have titles. But can we expect some decency from them in return?

Surely, as leaders, they must uphold some degree of decorum, integrity and credibility if they insist on respect from the people.

A few days ago, one leader told reporters to "go to hell" – with the permission of the State Assembly Speaker – because he was angry. He explained later that he needed to "defend" himself.

On another occasion, the same person made an obscene gesture at an Opposition party member. Again, he did it because he lost his cool and he had to defend his party's integrity.

Dengan izin penyokong-penyokong (With the supporters' permission), we presume.

Many of our male MPs are good people who are respectful and sensitive to women. After all, many of them are grandfathers, fathers, brothers and uncles.

We should reject MPs who habitually display their utter lack of understanding towards women, who form a large proportion of voters.

Such MPs should be made to attend classes on sexual violence and problems affecting single mothers, so that they can speak with some intelligence on issues concerning women.

Otherwise, we will have to continue to suffer their silly antics.