Women around the world are sheltering in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic and, in one way or another, they’re all struggling. With the many serious problems women are now facing and trying to overcome during quarantine, making sure they always look beautiful for the man in their life is not their top priority right now — except for the Malaysian government.
Domestic Violence in Malaysia
Malaysia is one of many countries that experiences domestic violence. With the recent order to shelter in place due to Coronavirus, many have feared there would be a rise in domestic abuse. In Malaysia, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM) is a government agency put in place to help protect women who are experiencing domestic violence, but recently they’ve been making some major bad decisions.
KPWKM suggested closing Malaysia’s crisis hotline for women and children but was met with widespread backlash from women’s advocacy groups.
Just a few weeks ago, KPWKM suggested closing Malaysia’s crisis hotline for women and children. Understandably so, this was met with widespread backlash and outrage from women’s advocacy groups and organizations. KPWKM decided to keep the hotline open and it’s a good thing they did — since deciding to keep the hotline open, it has received a 57% increase in calls. Many women in violent domestic relationships during lockdown are trapped in a nightmare and are desperate for help.
What Malaysian Women Are Being Told To Wear
Top advisories from KPWKM recently created a series of social media posters called “The Happiness of a Household is Built Together, How to Avoid Fights at Home Between Husband and Wife.” Using the hashtag #WomenPreventCovid19, the posters appeared on their social media pages and were supposedly designed to give women advice about how to handle being quarantined with their husbands. Malaysian women normally look to KPWKM for support, guidance, and protection, but the posters they were sharing only seemed to undermine women, advising them to be nothing but subservient eye-candy for their husbands.
The posters they were sharing only seemed to undermine women, advising them to be nothing but subservient eye-candy for their husbands.
Instead of creating an important poster informing women about protecting themselves from domestic violence during quarantine, one of the posters advised women to always wear makeup and tight-fitting clothing for their husband’s viewing pleasure while in lockdown. The reason? Doing so would please their husbands while they are sheltering in place with them and would relieve their husband’s stress. What in the actual hell kind of advice is that, KPWKM?
How Malaysian Women Are Being Told To Act
But wait — there’s more. If that last poster didn’t piss you off, this next one sure will. In the next poster KPWKM created, they offered women advice about how they should act with their husbands while sheltering in place. According to KPWKM, women shouldn’t nag their husbands about helping with household chores and they should refrain from using any sarcasm when speaking to their husbands. The reason? To ensure peace at home.
Women should simply shrug off their unhappiness, giggle, and speak like Doraemon, a childlike robot cartoon cat.
To add to this bizarre advice, KPWKM also stated that women shouldn’t raise their voice in anger if they’re upset with their husband or if they don’t agree with him. Instead, women should simply shrug off their unhappiness, giggle, and speak like Doraemon, a childlike robot cartoon cat. This alone is wrong and, quite frankly, incredibly disturbing on so many different levels.
The Online Campaign Received Backlash — Because, Of Course, It Did
It didn’t take long for the campaign to receive ridicule from people all over the world. Twitter user @yinshaoloong tweeted, “How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” And she is absolutely correct. The KPWKM has a responsibility to protect women who are experiencing domestic violence. They should be ashamed of themselves for making women feel like they are to blame for experiencing domestic violence from their husbands.
Nisha Sabanayagam, the manager at All Women’s Actions Society, stated that “these posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy.” To add to what Sabanayagam said, KPWKM using the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19 in their campaign was also extremely demeaning. How in the world would women wearing makeup and tight clothing cure a pandemic? What in the world was KPWKM thinking? They weren’t thinking. That’s the problem.
The KPWKM should be ashamed of themselves for making women feel like they are to blame for experiencing domestic violence from their husbands.
Due to the overwhelming backlash the campaign received after just one day, KPWKM decided to cancel it and remove the posters. Good call, but a little late! KPWKM director, Datuk Saidatu Akhma Hassan, made an apology (if you want to call it that) on Instagram saying, “We would like to apologize if several tips were inappropriate or if they touched on the sensitivities of certain groups. We will be more careful in the future.”
I don’t know about you, but the tone and vibe I am getting from Hassan’s “apology” sounds an awful lot like they are gaslighting Malaysian women. I hope and pray the KPWKM gets their act together and starts offering Malaysian women and families the actual type of advice, support, protection, and resources they absolutely need and deserve.