A non-governmental organisation (NGO) has expressed grave concern over the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri’s announcement of a public set of standard operating procedures (SOP) to determine whether mothers are unfit to care for their children.
According to the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) it is essential to recognise the importance of ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of children which is a responsibility shared by both parents but also to a larger degree, the community and other institutions.
“The focus on the role played by women in the household, particularly in domestic and care work, but also in parenting and nurturing children, is an overwhelming responsibility to be put solely on the shoulders of women, who are also human and experience a range of human emotions,” the group said in a statement today (Sept 25).
JAG further noted that these SOPs may discriminate on gender and gender roles, and therefore called for a thorough and inclusive review to ensure they are fair, non-discriminatory, and reflective of the best interests of the child.
“It is critical that any guidelines established for determining parental fitness do not discriminate based on gender. We agree that it is crucial to question why there seems to be a focus on mothers’ fitness without corresponding procedures for fathers,” it said.
“Equality in parenting is fundamental so as to not deny the child their rightful access to receive love, care and guidance equally from both parents which is likely to result in healthy mental and emotional growth.”
JAG went on to urge the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) to exercise its powers judiciously and in a manner that respects the rights of both parents, and prioritises the best interests of the child.
“We call for a thorough and inclusive review of the SOPs discussed by Nancy to ensure they are fair, non-discriminatory and reflective of the best interests of the child,” it asserted.
“An initiative to support parents, including possible parenting classes for both parents should ideally be provided to families undergoing these SOPs.”
The statement was co-signed by nine groups including the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), EMPOWER, Family Frontiers, Justice for Sisters, KRYSS Network, Perak Women for Women Society (PWW), Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO) and Sisters in Islam (SIS). – Sept 25, 2023
Main pic credit: Bernama