top of page

Concept Note & Terms of Reference

Women’s Tribunal, Malaysia 2021 | Reimagining Justice [1]


A women’s tribunal is a tribunal of conscience created by and for women to draw attention to critical issues affecting women[2]


Women’s groups in Malaysia are organising a Women’s Tribunal in 2021 (WT) to advocate for the elimination of discrimination in order to achieve gender equality and promote access to justice. 


Its purpose is to gather testimonies from affected persons to be presented to a panel of judges. These affected persons of diverse backgrounds will share their personal stories of violations, followed by presentations by advocates who will contextualize their experiences within a legal, policy and cultural framework.


The judges will evaluate the presentations and issue written findings and recommendations based on the State's obligations and principles of substantive equality articulated in CEDAW and other international human rights commitments.


The government of Malaysia (Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development) will be invited to observe and respond to the Judges’ findings and recommendations. Besides the government, the national human rights commission (SUHAKAM) and the CEDAW Committee Chair will be invited to make an address on the first day of the Women’s Tribunal.


While the Women’s Tribunal, Malaysia 2021 is not an official sanctioned body, nor goes through a formal judicial process, we believe that it will have the moral authority consisting of a panel of eminent judges who are experts on human rights and gender equality. 



Sat 27 & Sun 28 November 2021  (Day 1 Saturday and  Day 2 Sunday)

Mon 29 November - A two - hour Feminist ARTS Festival – Kebahagian Diri Mu

Sat 4 Dec 2021 -  The Judges present findings and recommendations



Public, Malaysian  and regional Civil Society, International NGOs



The Organising/Steering Committee of the WT is made up of representatives from a long established coalition called the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).


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, we have 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.


JAG is made up of 14 women’s organisations of which 13 organisations are members of the Organising Committee.[3] The Organising Committee is joined by an additional women’s group, ENGENDER.

Why a Women’s Tribunal Now?


Malaysia has pledged to eliminate all forms of discrimination by not only ratifying to the CEDAW in 1995 but has made a global commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.


However, there are still many areas of neglect that remain as obstacles to women’s equality and require the Government’s immediate attention and intervention.


We view the Women’s Tribunal as yet another powerful tool for advocacy to bring to light on areas in which women are still being denied equality and access to justice.

Objectives of the Women’s Tribunal, Malaysia 2021


  1. Provide an alternative form of justice and advocacy for women's human rights and gender equality;

  2. To empower and create a space to amplify the voices of diverse women as agents of change; 

  3. To show gaps in law, policy, cultural & institutional structures and their impact; 

  4. To receive recommendations to effect change and hold the State accountable;

  5. To build solidarity and strengthen movements. 



1. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) was acceded to by Malaysia in July 1995 with reservations to Article 2(f), 5(a), 7(b), 9 and 16;

2. In February 1998, Malaysia withdrew its reservations in respect to Articles 2(f), 9(1), 16(1)(b), 16(1)(d), 16(1)(e) and 16(1)(h);

3. In 2010 Malaysia withdrew its reservations to Article 5(a), 7(b) and Article 16(2) while maintaining its reservations to Articles 9(2), 16(1)(a), 16(1)(c), 16(1)(f) and 16(1)(g) on the basis that these Articles were in conflict with the Federal Constitution and Islamic Law (Shari’a);

4. As part of its obligations under CEDAW, Malaysia must submit a report to the CEDAW Committee (which oversees the implementation of the treaty) every four years and undergo a review by the CEDAW Committee, which results in the issuance of Concluding Observations by the CEDAW Committee. Accordingly, the Malaysian government has submitted the following reports to the CEDAW Committee:

  • In 2004, the combined initial and second report [Review and Concluding Observations in 2006]; and

  • In September 2016, the combined third to fifth report [Review and Concluding Observations in 2018]

5. Additionally, Malaysia has also made a global commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.

6. The Government of Malaysia has also subjected itself to periodic review of human right records through the Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”).

7. Additionally, the Government of Malaysia has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. 


With consideration to the above, the following is noted:


8. Despite Malaysia’s accession to CEDAW in 1995, critical issues concerning women’s human rights, including among others, gender inequality in citizenship, labour and employment, and health; discrimination against women on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; and various forms of gender-based violence still remain highly prevalent;

9. Non-governmental organisations (“NGO”) in Malaysia, specifically members of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (“JAG”) have been consistently highlighting the need for reform and improvements to the legal, economic, and social framework that exists in Malaysia to ensure the protection of women’s human rights. The NGO shadow reports submitted to the CEDAW Committee for Malaysia’s review, and the recommendations contained within, remain largely relevant;


10. Further, Malaysia has yet to accede to other key international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as a fundamental convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention relating to non-discrimination, C111 - Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111);


11. In 2006, the Government of Malaysia pledged to adopt a Gender Equality Act, but despite renewed interest in 2016 has not done so to date.  In 2018, the CEDAW Committee recommended to Malaysia to adopt within two years a concrete timeframe for the adoption of a Gender Equality Act that defines and prohibits all forms of discrimination against women, encompassing direct and indirect discrimination in the private and public spheres, as well as intersecting forms of discrimination against women, in line with Article 1 of the Convention and Target 5.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such timeline has yet to be publicised.


12. It is recognised that the Government of Malaysia has an obligation to enact such a law, as the current legal framework is inadequate to comprehensively address gender-based discrimination and promote gender equality, despite Malaysia signing international conventions that provide for equality or non-discrimination;


13. The right to equality and non-discrimination is a fundamental component of any democratic nation and there is a need for adequate frameworks to be in place, coupled with proper implementation for the protection of such rights;


14. Therefore, based on a need for an independent assessment and proper investigation into the status of women’s human rights and the issues concerning equality and non-discrimination in Malaysia, IT IS NOW DECIDED that a Tribunal on the issues surrounding women’s human rights is established to study, investigate, review and report on:


  • Women’s human rights issues in Malaysia stemming from inequality and discrimination;

  • The adequacy and effectiveness of the State’s interventions, including the efficacy of the Malaysian legal framework and structures in dealing with discrimination against women; and

  • The improvements and specific actions the Government of Malaysia will need to adopt in order to fulfil its obligations in protecting and promoting women’s human rights.

The following are the terms of reference of the Tribunal:


1. To enquire into, study and deliberate on:

1.1) The various intersecting issues affecting women’s human rights and the right to equality and non-discrimination in Malaysia. In doing so, the judges may refer to international human rights standards and norms, including but not limited to the human rights conventions ratified by Malaysia; and

1.2) Consider whether Malaysia has fulfilled its obligations under CEDAW and other international human rights instruments, standards, and processes, including but not limited to CRC, CRPD, UPR, SDGs, humanitarian, and ILO treaties. 


2. To study and review the frameworks and structures that have been adopted by the Government of Malaysia, including the roles and responsibilities of the relevant state machinery,  since accession to CEDAW in 1995 and, in particular, to enquire into and identify any shortcomings in the legal, social, economic and cultural framework that:

2.1) remain in conflict with Malaysia’s obligations under CEDAW;

2.2) do not adhere to international human rights norms and standards;

2.3) prevent or impede women’s human rights to equality and non-discrimination


3. To thoroughly review all evidence, including but not limited to written and verbal, documents, voice or video recordings and photographs presented during the tribunal by the witnesses and other relevant parties without prejudice. the judges may seek further information for the purposes of deliberation and arriving at a determination whether

3.1) a violation has been committed,

3.2) the nature of the violation and factors that enable such violation to occur

3.3) Malaysia's obligation under international and domestic laws in relation to the violation, and

3.4) the recommended actions for the government to remedy, prevent and address such violations 


4. To consider and make recommendations as the Tribunal deems appropriate with regards to any findings or conclusions made by the Tribunal panel of judges.


5. To publish the report of findings and recommendations and disseminate to the relevant State agencies.

[1] Written by the Convenor, Ivy Josiah 9.2.2021  

[2] SPEAK AND BE HEARD, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) Guide to Women’s Tribunals, 2016

[3] Women’s Aid Organisation, Association of Women’s Lawyers, All Women Action Society, Justice for Sisters, Sisters in Islam, Women’s Centre For Change, Foreign Spouses Support Group, Perak Women for Women, Sahabat Wanita, Sabah Women’s Action- Resource Group, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)

KRYSS  Network, Tenaganita  

bottom of page