Fighting for women’s rights need not be with a karate ‘chop’

Physical violence against women and other forms of abuse are symptomatic of a larger problem - patriarchy

It is disturbing that in this day and age, there are still people who strongly believe that victims of domestic violence, particularly women, should take up martial arts, such as karate, as a means to defend themselves and sort out conflicts.

MCA women’s wing head Heng Seai Kie recently made this peculiar suggestion during the party’s 45th annual general meeting.

While it may be acceptable for some people that one should attempt to defend oneself against physical abuse, a violent response may not necessarily cease a heated conflict. On the contrary, it might even raise the temperature where both parties would end up hurting each other very badly and with no solution in sight.

Furthermore, the physical violence of perpetrators should rightfully be the object of public outrage and, at the same time, its victims must be offered immediate professional help.

Anyway, disabled and physically weak women are likely to not have recourse to this physical manner, which makes them more vulnerable.

Domestic violence has been on the rise amid the current pandemic as family members, men and women alike, find themselves ‘caged’ in the house and with some becoming irritable as a result of the movement control order and its various versions.

It is likely that some women are subject to abuse by their husbands who have been laid off, had pay cuts or made to feel irrelevant. This may take the form of physical violence, as well as verbal abuse and emotional blackmail and no communication with the outside world.

Incidentally, the psychological scar that results from a conflict can be as hurtful as, if not more than, a physical slap or beating.

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To be clear, physical violence against women and other forms of abuse are symptomatic of a larger problem, namely patriarchy, which still rears its ugly head in our society.

Thus, winning a physical fight with your husband or partner doesn’t mean you have won over his sexist attitude towards women. It is likely that his mindset places women one hierarchical level below that of men and, thus, the former are seen as deserving of treatment befitting their supposedly lowly position in society.

It is no secret that some men derive pleasure out of dominating women in a situation of uneven power relations.

We hope that Seai Kie by now is aware that the fight for women’s rights should be seen in a wider perspective and beyond physical fights with men.

All along women activists as well as their male counterparts have been vigorously campaigning for women’s rightful place in society – on par with men – as they, too, can make useful contributions to nation-building.

Being a homemaker, as many women are, is no less a contribution to the wellbeing of the family in particular and society in general and, thus, should not be looked down upon especially by their husbands.

In certain areas of life, such as in industry and academia, women have excelled, which is an achievement that is worthy to be noted and celebrated.

That is why women demand gender equality, equal pay, better political representation and equal job opportunities. They also encourage women to call out sexual harassment by men who like to prey on women.

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The pandemic has affected many ordinary Malaysians, including vulnerable women. Some women have suffered domestic violence at the hands of their idle husbands, while others, particularly single mothers, have great difficulty in making ends meet.

In this regard, it is hoped that Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun would have by now attended to many of the problems relating to domestic violence and the economic hardships of single mothers and the elderly after the completion of her physical makeover recently.

The fight for women’s rights not only benefits them, but also the rest of society. A threat to them is, therefore, in many ways a threat to us all. – The Malaysian Insight

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