The moment there was an inkling that Dyana Sofya would be DAP’s candidate for the Teluk Intan Parliamentary seat, a picture purportedly of her (it wasn’t) in a bikini was circulated on the internet. She has since been subjected to wolf whistles by her own supposed supporters, and called cheap candy by extremist group Isma.
These attacks and hurdles that Dyana is faced with, stem from the same sexism and misogyny that the women politicians who walked before her faced and continue to face. Leading up to GE13 last year, pamphlets depicting a constituent saying “You’re going back to suckle. If we have a problem, whom should we look for?” were distributed in Kulai, directed at the woman candidate Teo Nie Ching.
Surely, many women have been discouraged from pursuing careers in politics because of this rampant sexism. Worse, many women have been actively denied the opportunity to run. Last year, Pahang PAS committed to field at least 40% new faces at GE13. However, none of these candidates were women, with the party claiming that women were not ready “due to work and other commitments”.
It’s no surprise then that there are so few women elected representatives in Malaysia, both at the state and federal level. Only 10 per cent of Members of Parliament and 11% of state assemblypersons are women, according to an analysis by the NGO Empower.