Malaysia's home minister Monday shot down a proposal that would require women travelling abroad on their own to produce consent letters from parents or employers to prevent them being used as drug "mules".
Newly installed foreign minister Rais Yatim caused uproar on the weekend with the suggestion, which he reportedly said had been put to the cabinet after being approved by his ministry and the Home Ministry.
However, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar -- a long-serving foreign minister until a recent cabinet reshuffle -- poured cold water on the controversial idea, saying it was impractical and would infringe on human rights.
"In so far as travelling is concerned, we can't impose any regulations. I think Dr Rais was just throwing ideas," he said according to the official Bernama news agency.
"To me, if you are an adult, even within the country it is difficult to ask them to inform their family where they are going. So if you are an adult, you have to act on your own," he said.
Syed Hamid said it was the right of every Malaysian to apply for a passport and to obtain a visa to travel to other countries.
"Even if you ask permission from parents, we can't be sure this thing will not happen. The parents can't be following the person everywhere. So it has to be education to tell them the dangers of this sort of activities," he said.
Rais floated the idea after reports that 119 Malaysians, 90 percent of who are women, have been imprisoned worldwide on drug-related charges, with the majority believed to have been duped into transporting drugs.
He said many of the women involved left Malaysia purportedly to attend courses and seminars.
The New Straits Times said Malaysians have become prime targets for syndicates wanting to smuggle drugs into the European Union because they do not require visas for short stays or to transit in those countries.
Women's groups quickly criticised the suggestion, saying that the proposal was impossible to enforce and that women should not be further victimised because of their involvement in drug-smuggling rackets.
Agence France-Presse - 5/5/2008 5:25 AM GMT