KUALA LUMPUR- Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak says women must be treated as equals not only at home but in the office and everywhere else.
The Prime Minister said there was no denying that women - known for their determination, commitment and compassion - were the backbone of the nation.
All the successes the country enjoyed today could not have been attained without their participation, he said.
"We must treat women not only as an equal but with respect everywhere and at all times, be it at home, office and even inside lifts.
"Women are a force to be reckoned with," he said to applause from guests who packed the Putra World Trade Centre for the Women's Day celebration. The theme this year is "Respect Women: Society Flourishes".
When Najib talked about the "lifts", it was obvious to the audience that the PM was referring to the incident in which a man was caught on camera assaulting his wife inside a hospital lift in Bukit Mertajam.
The man pleaded not guilty in a magistrate's court on Aug 16 and the case is set for mention next month.
Najib said the accomplishments made by women were something to be proud of, citing that between 2009 and 2011, the number of women who enrolled in public universities for degree courses was over 65 per cent. This year, 68 per cent or 41,573 women obtained places in universities.
"Female participation in the employment sector also saw a significant increase from 44.7 per cent in 1995 to 49.5 per cent last year. The number of those in the professional level stands at 14.8 per cent last year from just 7.5 per cent in 2005," he pointed out. "These achievements clearly reflect the important role women play in changing the economic, social, political and cultural landscape of the nation."
Najib said the Government had taken steps to eliminate any form of discrimination against women, including amending Article 8 (2) of the Federal Constitution in 2001 to prohibit discrimination against any citizen due to gender.
The Domestic Violence Act was also amended in 2011 to broaden the definition of domestic violence to also include emotional, mental and psychological abuse, he added.
"Women wear many hats and they are known for their multi-tasking skills. We can help them by providing them an environment to complement their abilities such as setting up daycare centres at work places, flexible working hours and the option to work from home."
Six individuals were awarded the Respect Women Award. They were Kuala Lumpur Hospital head of emergency and trauma department Prof Datuk Dr Abu Hassan Assari Abdullah who proposed the setting up of one-stop crisis centre at government hospitals to treat women who are victims of violence; Datuk Faridah Khalid and Datuk Ramani Gurusamy, who are deputy president and vice-president respectively at the National Council of Women's Organisations.
The other three recipients were criminologist Kamal Affandi Hashim, DTE Consult Sdn Bhd and lawyer Tengku Naufal Tengku Mansor and president of Women for Women Society Ann Teo Chiang Joo.