mt961013 (mt961013) wrote,

The politics of gender segregation in public space

KELANTAN seems to have a penchant for separating men and women in the public sphere, and this is quite baffling to outsiders. Non-Muslims will be even more bewildered, to say the least.

For the unfamiliar, the policy on gender segregation in Kelantan is drawn based on Islamic teachings as interpreted by the state government leaders.

Leaders, in the case of Kelantan, are Pas assemblymen and women with their views leaning towards raising their political stature.

Now, it is nothing extraordinary to hear news about a new gender ruling by the Kelantan government to allow only women spectators at sports tournaments involving female players. As for men-only games, only members of the same sex can watch matches from the stands from next year.

For a long time, such a rule gives the impression that the state government is strict on gender mixing.

On that point, it is right to say so as some regulations, such as the gender-specific counters in supermarkets, have been implemented.

On close scrutiny, however, the rule has not been stringently enforced and it appears the state government is allowing Islam to be mocked by others.

Fans of the Kelantan football team come from both sexes. Pic by Syamsi Suhaimi

From casual observation, rarely do shoppers seem go to specific cashiers for men and women when paying in supermarkets.

In defence, some leaders used to say that upholding the spirit of Islam was uppermost in the introduction of the ruling, and not necessarily the enforcement.

By the same interpretation, it will be grossly unfortunate if the country’s law enforcers say the same thing about the Penal Code.

In this instance, criminals can happily break into homes with impunity if only the spirit of the law is more important than punishing them under the Penal Code.

In Kelantan, it is either that the leaders lack the political will or that they merely have little intention of promoting the true virtues of Islam. Or, it can be both. They may have drafted an enactment or policy, ostensibly based on the religious requirements, and then simply be forgetful on how to enforce it.

They may earn some political advantage for showing their good intention when implementing the gender separation policy for their own short-term gain.

But, the people and Muslims will be left befuddled, aside from having trust issues with the power of religion to govern them in the long run. It is also rather embarrassing for the people to keep explaining to outsiders of the actual benefits of gender segregation in public space.

As for the restrictions for spectators at sporting competitions, there will be issues about family members who will have to sit out from watching the games. Can fathers cheer from the sidelines when their daughters compete in a game of, say, badminton, as only women can be the audience?

In any sporting event, the match officials and other technical staff are generally a mix of men and women, and this also needs some light to be shed on by the state government on how to overcome any complications.

Outdoor sports are likely to be off-limits as far as the new ruling is concerned as it will be almost impossible to keep out certain genders from watching matches from the sides of the field.

And how will sports in Kelantan excel, other than upholding the modesty of both sexes?

Other than the Kelantan football team, the Red Warriors, no other sport from Kelantan has excelled or become as popular. Their fans, obviously, come from both sexes.

Tags: gender

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