The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and gender equality-focused social enterprise Engender Consultancy would like to reiterate the importance of Budget 2021 in tackling the gender gaps in our society that have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Safeguarding women’s safety from violence, women’s employment, and women’s and girls’ access to healthcare must be front-and-centre in Malaysia’s budgetary response to the pandemic.
First, policymakers must strengthen law enforcement and support services for gender-based violence survivors. WAO had previously reported a three-fold spike in distress calls to our hotlines during movement control order lockdowns. However, there is little sign that incidences of intimate partner violence is abating, as the economic distress has aggravated the risks of violence, and widespread physical distancing and work-from-home measures continue to confine survivors at home.