PETALING JAYA: An average of 13 women in Malaysia are abused at home every day, mostly by their spouse.
According to Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) senior advocacy officer Rusni Tajari, wife-beating has become a normal way for the perpetrator to exercise power over his victim.
Despite the social advancements that have been made worldwide, wife-beating remains a common practice.
“It is a culturally acceptable practice,” Rusni said, adding that it is important to focus on changing these cultural norms, narratives and attitudes so women can have the right and freedom to live in a safe environment.
She said abusers largely depend on physical and sexual violence, threats, emotional insults and economic deprivation to dominate the victims and get their way.
Under the Domestic Violence Act, this form of abuse is not exclusive to married couples.
“There have also been abuse against the elderly, siblings and children of both genders.”
While there has been a drop in the number of domestic abuse cases during the movement control order (MCO), many non-governmental organisations (NGO) continue to stress the fact that it remains a cause for concern.
According to data obtained from the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division in Bukit Aman, there were a total of 3,080 cases of domestic abuse from the start of the MCO on March 18 until Oct 2.
Principle assistant director of the division, ACP Siti Kamsiah Hassan, pointed out that this was a drop from 3,258 cases for the same number of days before the MCO – an overall decline of 178 cases nationwide.
The data showed a drop of 400 cases from March 18 to May 3, but the numbers rose quickly when the conditional movement control order (CMCO) was imposed on May 3.
Siti Kamsiah said when the recovery movement control order (RMCO) was phased in from June 6, the pattern began to match that of pre-MCO days. She said domestic violence against children also rose during the CMCO.
She also stressed that domestic violence does not only involve aggression between husband and wife or their children.
“It also extends to other family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts or siblings living under the same roof.
Kamsiah explained that data from the police is based on reports lodged while those from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is based on the number of distress calls received via its helpline.
Rusni said the most effective response to violence is a multi-sectoral strategy that should include addressing the immediate needs of women experiencing abuse and providing them long-term assistance and following up on their case frequently.
“Educating parents, siblings and other family members who are capable and willing to break down age-old beliefs regarding this issue is also a way forward,” she added.
Programme officer at All Women’s Action Society Malaysia, Mayna R. Patel, said laws on matters such as marriage continue to discriminate against women, giving the impression that women’s needs and rights are secondary to that of men.
“Even marital rape is not considered a serious offence. These issues have to be addressed. To do that, we have to look at both punishment and prevention methods.”