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Monday, May 5, 2008

Malaysia plans women travel curbs

Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 12:57 UK

Malaysian women walk through a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur (file photo)
The proposal has been criticised as impractical and regress

Women's groups in Malaysia have reacted angrily to proposed government restrictions on women travelling abroad on their own.

State media say the plan would require women to obtain written consent from their families or employers.

The Malaysian foreign minister said the move would prevent single women being used by gangs to smuggle drugs.

The proposal follows a review of criminal cases where women had been jailed abroad.


Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said 90% of cases where Malaysian women had been jailed by foreign courts involved drugs.

He told the New Sunday Times newspaper that a compulsory letter of consent to travel alone would enable women's families to make sure they were not being tricked by drug smuggling gangs.

"Many of these women (who travel alone) leave the country on the pretext of work or attending courses and seminars," he said.

"With this declaration, we will know for sure where and for what she is travelling overseas," he said.

Women's groups have expressed outrage at the plan.

The National Council for Women's Organisations said it would infringe women's rights.

Another group, Sisters in Islam, said the proposal was totally ridiculous and regressive, and assumed that women were less capable than men of making their own decisions.

Campaigners have pointed out that letters of permission to travel would be very easy to forge.

In recent years the influence of hardline Islamic groups has been increasing in Malaysia, but it is unclear whether this proposal has any religious motive.

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