Ambiga Sreenevasan: "Gender Equality Is a Responsibility for All Malaysians"

Posted by Ruth Bennett
March 9, 2009
2009 International Women of Courage Award Recipients: Ambiga Sreenevasan, Malaysia

About the Author: Ruth Bennett serves as the Public Affairs Advisor for the Office of International Women’s Issues. This entry is one in a series of profiles of the 2009 International Women of Courage Award recipients.

Malaysian Bar Council President Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan is a high-powered, high-profile advocate for good governance, democracy, and human rights.

Elected in March, 2007, Dato’ Ambiga is the second female Bar Council president in that organization’s history. Six months after assuming her leadership, she organized the “March for Justice,” in Malaysia’s administrative capital, calling for judicial reform and investigation of a tape allegedly showing a key lawyer fixing judicial appointments and judges’ case assignments. Her public actions, and an intense lobbying campaign, led to a Royal Commission and a finding of need for corrective action.

Dato’ Ambiga has also consistently supported the rule of law during her tenure, condemning the politically-motivated arrests of two journalists, and the government’s banning of an ethnic Indian activist group and arrest of its members.

Dato’ Ambiga’s most controversial work is in the areas of religious freedom and women’s rights. She has assertively confronted sexism in Parliament, taking her case directly to the public when necessary. “Gender equality is a responsibility of all Malaysians,” she wrote in a press release that protested a politician’s patronizing remarks. She successfully fought to amend Malaysia’s Federal Constitution to ensure that women’s testimony would carry equal weight to men’s in Shari’a courts. She continues to fight for the religious freedom of women who convert to Islam upon marriage. Under current law, these women are not allowed to return to their original religions on dissolution of the marriage, regardless of the reason for its termination.

As a result of her attempts to find legal solutions to issues that continue to generate inter-ethnic tensions and constitutional problems, Dato’Ambiga has received hate mail, death threats, and had a Molotov cocktail thrown at her house. Hundreds of people from religious groups and conservative members of government have protested at the Bar Council building and called for her arrest.

In a country with a potentially volatile religious and ethnic mix, Dato’ Ambiga has courageously persevered in seeking answers from within the rule of law, and worked relentlessly and energetically for that legal and governing structure to be made more transparent, accessible, and equitable to all.



Maryland, USA
March 16, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

I liked her speech at the "Awards Ceremony".

She is a very well spoken person,and you can tell she spoken in public before.It's great that Ambiga was able to change the Constitution in her country. That must have been hard to do, & Taken a long time. I think she doing a great service for her Country, by forwarding "Equal Rights". I hope she keeps working with in the Law to better the people of her coutrys live's.

Great Job, Ambiga Sreenevasan :)

Cya Later :)

March 19, 2009

Thilagesh in Malaysia writes:

Asa a Malaysian I really proud of you Dato. Congrats.

We Malaysians Indians will always support you.

We love you Dato.

April 9, 2009

Geetha in Malaysia writes:

We are proud of you...and definitely need more people like more than ever. Congratulations

April 13, 2009

Phynthamil in Malaysia writes:

Dear Dato'.

It is great job that you doing up there...

You deserve this award.

Congratulations to you..

God bless you...

April 13, 2009

Hii in Malaysia writes:

We are proud of you Ambiga. You make us proud. You are a very rare breed now in Malaysia which is very, very much needed if Malaysia were to have a future to be a great nation, a great people and a great culture. You have dwarfed the so called "Pemimpin", "Datuk Datin", "Tuns" and "Tan Sris".

My Heartiest Congratulations to you, Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan.

August 2, 2009

Margaret in Germany writes:

Ambiga, Malaysia needs more people like you. But how many Malaysians in Malaysia have learned about your award and can be proud of you as this award made no front page news in the national daily.

Rajendra S.
August 11, 2009

Rajendra in Nepal writes:

Malays should learn lesson from her!!

September 3, 2009

Salem in Mongolia writes:

We are definitely proud of you, thanks greatly for the courage shown.. esp, within the rule of law. It's evident even now that the wave of change has started and it will benefit all Malaysians alike in time to come. Let's remain strong and ever more, courageous to welcome change.

Positively and hopeful, goodness will come, be strong !


Latest Stories