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KUALA LUMPUR: There is gender bias and discrimination within the legal profession in Malaysia revealed a baseline study conducted by the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) in 2013.

Its president, Meera Samanther in a press statement said the study among others revealed that though female lawyers (68%) outnumber their male counterparts in the position of legal assistants, male lawyers still dominated the leadership positions.

“Of the 15 members of the Bar Council, only 5 are women and of the past 27 Bar presidents, only 2 have been women,” said Meera in stressing her point.

On a more serious note it was also discovered that both women and men lawyers have experienced some form of sexual harassment though there is a Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment adopted by the Bar Council.

Surprisingly, according to Meera, most lawyers who reported sexual harassment in the survey did not report the incidents. Most of them are young lawyers.

In highlighting her concern, Meera said, “The study raises concerns that women lawyers face far more obstacles as compared to their male counterparts to prove their capabilities and to gain respect.

“Women are stereotyped as less assertive and gender preferences for male lawyers may be one of the reasons for the low number of representation of women in leadership positions.”

Thus, according to Meera the AWL recommends the Bar to recognise and address gender based and discrimination issues seriously amongst its members while quoting a recent sexist statement made at the Bar’s Annual General Meeting by a male member.

“It must make a stand when sexist statement are made as there are limits even when the concept of “freedom” is involved and victims should know where to lodge their complaints.,” stressed Meera.

On another note AWL also urges all lawyers irrespective of gender to look at each other as equals and opportunities should be provided on merit.

Read more here: Free Malaysia Today

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