PETALING JAYA - A call by PAS on International Women's Day for women to be allowed to fulfil their true role as homemakers has drawn strong reactions from legal experts, political parties and housewives.
"That's an outrageous statement from anyone in this century, when we have made so much progress - though still not enough - in women's rights," said prominent lawyer Syahredzan Johan.
"The ironic thing is that in Kelantan, where PAS is in power, the women are famous for their entrepreneurial spirit. And within PAS itself, there are many strong women leaders and opinion-makers. Such a statement ignores that."
PAS Ulama information chief Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali at-Takiri had on Tuesday said in a statement that women should perform their true function at home as wives and mothers to reduce the high divorce rate and breakdown of the family institution.
PAS also noted other reasons for the high divorce rates, including infidelity, misunderstandings and work pressure.
Datuk Heng Seai Kie, Wanita MCA national chairman and adviser on national unity and integration in the Prime Minister's Department, said blaming the high divorce rate on working women and PAS' desperation in pushing for hudud enactments must be condemned.
"We should commend and encourage such women who take care of, and contribute and sacrifice for both family and society," she said.
"PAS must be reminded also that it should not force its own values on others, in this era of gender equality and therefore equal rights for both women and men."
Heng also expressed regret that the statement was made on International Women's Day.
Many expressed scepticism at the realities of a single-income household implied by the statement.
"It would be unfair to blame a working woman for a divorce, since she is working to contribute to the family, especially in this current economic landscape, with the rising cost of living," said lawyer Hashley Tajudin, 31.
Lawyer Zulaida Zulkifli, 34, said the institution of marriage was a partnership and the role of a woman could not be limited to the domestic sphere.
"If you want to make a marriage work and avoid divorce, then both men and women must play an equal role in this," she said.