In conjunction with the 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (Nov 25 - Dec 10), the Women's Centre for Change in Penang has released a video to support victims of domestic violence and raise awareness about the rights of a woman under the law, particularly women in Muslim marriages.
"The purpose is to empower Muslim women on their rights in the family. A majority of domestic violence victims in government hospitals are Muslim women and our experience in helping them indicates that many of them don't understand their rights and don't know what they can do in situations of domestic violence," explains WCC programme director Karen Lai.
A majority of the victims are also in the lower income bracket, which means they don't have the resources or the information about how they can seek help and support, she adds.
The video is the fourth in a series of videos produced by WCC and funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives under the Canadian High Commission. The first video in the series (Empowering Muslim Women on Their Rights In the Family) featured the Penang state Mufti who spoke about the complementary rights of men and women in a marriage; the second video focused on ta'liq, the conditions set in a marriage and the rights that women have under this ta'liq; and the third video focused on nafkah, a woman's rights to maintenance.
"Apart from the mufti, we featured a former Syariah court judge and also Syariah lawyers," explains Lai.
The latest video features interviews with three Muslim survivors of domestic violence - one who went through sexual violence, one physical violence and the third, financial abuse.
"We decided to talk about sexual violence because it's a topic that isn't widely or openly talked about. Although under our laws it is an offence for a husband to cause hurt to their spouse in the course of sexual intercourse, but marital rape isn't criminalised. But the victim in the video describes what she went through as rape. It was so violent that she almost suffered a miscarriage," says Lai.
By highlighting their stories, Lai hopes that other women who may be going through similar situations will feel brave enough to seek help when they see that they are not alone.
"The accounts are very raw but I think we need to talk about it because sexual violence and domestic abuse happen. And we hope the video will show victims they are not alone and will guide them to how they can get help and support," says Lai.