By: RaY KinZoKu

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Wednesday, 23-Aug-2006 00:00 Email | Share | Bookmark

There is probably no way for a first timer to Kelantan,
venturing into the state's supermart or hypermart ( the groceries section )
to miss this common but unique sight :

Perhaps by now,
every Malaysian might have already known that Kelantan,
the only Malaysian state governs by the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party ( PAS ),
required all supermarkets to have separate lines for male and female at the paying counters.
More on the list are public concerts, public functions or gatherings and some other related activities
and even goes to anyone who would like to reintroduce the cinema back to the state.

So far I dont see the locals complaining about it and me, I choose to stay optimistic.

But other Malaysians,
as I noticed in the blogosphere and on the net,
seem upset by the move ( some if not most, probably never been to Kelantan ! ),
and not few who see the practice as something that may lead to a much negative outcome :


Over the past several years, women in Malaysia have seen a steady erosion of women's freedom and rights in the areas of law and access to justice in the Shariah system, social rights in the family, dress, public participation, and socialisation between the sexes.

We see increasing segregation of men and women in the public space.
In one state there is a separate queue for men and women in the supermarket.

From : Nora Murat, " Sisters in Islam: Advocacy for Change Within the Religious Framework "

No doubt.
That "one state" , is no other but.... Kelantan !

However in this case,
I failed to understand how relevant is "segregation" to the " erosion of women's freedom and rights "
when a more developed and "free" nation further up north is proving the opposite :

* The newspaper article is a trimmed version of the original article from
The Times, " Battle of the sexes leaves men groping for equality ". Read the full version HERE or HERE.

If you dont have the time to go through the article, let me quote something from it :


What started as a desperate measure to protect women from gropers on trains has blossomed into a fully fledged movement. Single-sex places have become a lifestyle choice for many women and a source of outrage for men......

..... Once women-only carriages became standard on many Japan Railways services and the Tokyo Metro, other businesses quickly followed. Spas and gyms were among the first to pick up the trend, with restaurants, comic-book cafes and convenience stores joining the no-men-allowed movement.

* I snapped this one on a platform, somewhere in Osaka, back in 2005.

And wait, there is more :


.... “ If men want not to be discriminated against, they should have better manners,” Ms Suzuki said. “They sit so they take up lots of space, read newspapers wide open, leaf through pornography in public and some are really arrogant, too.”

Takashi Naito, the male owner of Men-Ya Sora, said: “I wanted to have as many repeat customers as possible and I noticed that female diners often asked me to give them a table away from men who were drunk and noisy.” .....

First started as a government's measure against groping ( chikan ),
this " gender segregation " in public eventually receives good respons and supports from women,
who probably got frustrated by the level of " freedom & rights " enjoyed in the presence of
some ill-mannered male counterparts.
As the voice becomes greater, local businesses started to follow suit and introduce their own
brand of " public gender segregation " which finally ended up in the above article.

I stayed in Japan for a couple of years and found myself enjoying the sight of the "women-only" signs
scattering on the trains and on the platforms, as they reminded much of where I came from,
Kelantan ( ... but of course, minus the " groper "s ! )
That it even came to me sometimes, this feeling of how Kelantan is much " advanced "
when the concept, implemented earlier in Kelantan, seemed to get " recognized " and
somehow accepted in this part of the developed world.

So, Japan is an interesting example where " public gender segregation " is much welcome by the women
( oh, never mind the men ) and the amazing part about it is the people themselves ( the women ) are actually going for it !
( the Japanese govt doesnt really like the idea, let alone to promote it ! )

As in Kelantan, the rule is " State-imposed ".
Rather unfortunate as it happens at times when most Malaysians prefer to see every move
by the politicians as merely a " political stunt " rather than a " practical solution ",
resulting only a handful few takes the rule seriously.
* see Footnote ( 1 )
And to make matters worst, Kelantan is currently under the Oppositions,
which explains why some Malaysians choose to be sceptical or critical whenever it comes to the state's matter.

But if that is really the case,
I wonder whether the following is a political stunt too...

In July 2006, a well known Kelantanese express bus operator,
minus the government intervention or pressure, managed to come up with a revolutionary
new idea for their service :

Konsortium E-Mutiara Berhad, the Kelantanese company behind the well known Ekspress Mutiara,
has came up with their own unique initiative, the " Bas Khas Untuk Wanita " ( Women Only Coach ).
The service, at the moment is limited only for Kelantan ~ Lembah Klang route.

Either their female customers are asking for it or simply learning something from past experiences
or taking examples from the state government's implementation,
judging from the fact that there is no businessman who would like to ruin his own business
by introducing to the fully aware customers, something that they are against for,
I thus believe that this is done for their customers' own satisfaction, i.e in good faith.

Therefore, by taking lessons from these examples ( Japan, Ekpress Mutiara ),
the gender segregation in public, as implemented in Kelantan should at least be viewed in
a positive and constructive manner and that no premature or stereotypical view or even plain
(or ugly) emotions should be mixed in.
The implementation MIGHT not be without flaw(s) but it is surely rewarding to be optimistic.

Believing that the rule, like the newly introduced bus service, must also be of good faith,
there is no way for me to despise it, let alone to oppose it
and that being in the right line at the counter is always the nicest thing to do.
* see Footnote ( 2 )

So, whether you are going to agree with me or otherwise, I just got this to say .....

" Welcome to Kelantan, hope you enjoy your stay and .....


A billboard in Kota Bharu.

Footnote (1) :
In Kelantan, due to lack of enforcements or supervisions ( by both the stores' management or by the state govt ) and
with third world mentalities flourishing among some, the rule which requires people to
properly line up at the counters, by genders, is sometimes if not often, neglected.

Footnote (2) :
Besides, I personally like it, since men normally do not take up things as much as women do,
and since we got the rule, lining up at the counter never got as good as this ! ha ha ...
emm.... not really cuz it was good during the days when they first introduced the rule
but when people started to play loose with it, I guess we are back to square one ! ... oh, well .....


KONSERT AWAM DAN SEGREGASI : Konsert Tautan Kasih ( bersama Mawi )

THE JAKARTA POST : PKS wants women-only cars in railway law ( 16 July 2006 )

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