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Saying goodbye to Toni Kasim

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toni_kasim_front_page.jpgFORUM-ASIA mourns the death of a prominent Women Human Rights defender, Zaitun ‘Toni’ Kasim, who passed away on 4 June 2008. She was a staunch supporter of justice and equality without any kind of distinction of gender, sexuality, religion, race or disabilities. Her work is great inspiration to all those who bear witness to her struggles, her death, a great loss to the human rights movement.

'View a video in honour of Malaysian human rights defender, and a song by Toni Kasim'.

“If women are empowered, the whole community eventually moves forward” – Zaitun ‘Toni’ Kasim, Women Human Rights defender, Malaysia, 1967-2008.

(Bangkok) FORUM-ASIA is deeply saddened over the recent loss of one of Malaysia’s most prominent women human rights defender, Zaitun “Toni” Mohamed Kasim. Toni has been in the forefront in the promotion and protection of human rights for over 20 years, 15 of which was in Malaysia. She is a staunch supporter of justice and equality without any kind of distinction of gender, sexuality, religion, race or disabilities. She passed away on Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at the age of 41 due to duodenal cancer.

Through her work, Toni has advocated for reform on laws and policies that discriminated against women. She once stated that, “Women’s rights remain my key thrust because of something I learnt a long time ago. If women are empowered, the whole community eventually moves forward. It’s that simple because as the nucleus of a family and community, it makes no sense to sideline or ignore women”.

Toni was involved with numerous NGOs including FORUM-ASIA’s member Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and the Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WIC), in which she was the first independent women’s parliamentary candidate in the 1999 on a gender platform.

She has also worked on other human rights issues including poverty alleviation at the Australian NGO, the Community Aid Abroad, land issues with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), environmental rights, HIV/AIDS and health issues with sex workers and transgender communities, migrant rights, refugees and social issues affecting Muslim communities .

According to Suaram, “Toni was known to be especially passionate about defending human dignity and rights of individuals and communities… [She] was a very active Secretariat member since 2001. She has been principled and fearless in helping Suaram speak up on many issues, especially for the weak, the marginalized and the vilified groups in Malaysian society”. Toni Kasim has been buried yesterday at the Batu Tiga Muslim cemetery in Shah Alam.

Kindly read Suaram statement: 'Toni Kasim, a human rights defender par excellance'.