ACCORDING to the Statistics Department, the number of marriages fell from 206,352 in 2018 to 203,821 in 2019, a decline of 1.2%. Meanwhile, the number of divorces rose by 12% from 50,862 in 2018 to 56,975 in 2019.
The main reason for divorces were communication and financial problems, domestic violence and others.
The issue of domestic violence has attracted plenty of attention. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Malaysia, our country was placed under the movement control order (MCO) since March 2020.
While the new normal of working from home (WFH) may have curbed the infectious disease in the earlier stages, unfortunately, it could not contain domestic violence totally.
During the various categories of the MCO, the number of domestic violence incidences in our country grew. There is a saying, “familiarity breeds contempt, ” and to prevent irreversible developments and regrets in the future, victims of domestic violence are urged to have the confidence to step out and seek help from various avenues, as soon as possible.
According to reports, as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads globally, including in Malaysia, citizens in all countries have responded to full or partial lockdown measures imposed by their respective countries.
The family nest appears to be the safest abode to prevent the outbreak’s spread. However, for some females, stress levels have shot up with the stay-home measures due to anxiety and communication breakdowns leading to domestic violence.
Data from the website of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry reveals that there were 81 reported cases of domestic violence in Malaysia from March 18 to 31; from April 1 to 30, there were 337 cases; while from May 1 to 31,420 cases were reported.
These figures indicate this upward trend continued in June with 92 reported cases in just the first nine days of the month.
Wanita MCA’s Legal Advisory and Women's Aid Centre (Lawa) has also received 83 reports of domestic violence since March 18.
The number of calls to helplines for women also climbed by four times compared with the same months last year.
This situation is worrisome.
According to a report by the United Nations, the number of calls to helplines for women in Lebanon and Malaysia doubled from the same month last year, and tripled in China.
In Australia, the number of victims using Google for help on domestic violence was the highest in five years. Therefore, during this global contagion, domestic violence is not just a problem in Malaysia, but an international phenomenon.
Our country can learn from the experiences and policies of other countries.
In view of the continued spike in domestic violence cases in Malaysia during the MCO, Lawa continues to provide assistance to victims.
On June 27, Lawa formed a tie-up with Persatuan Kebajikan Maha Malaysia and the Be Good Do Good Association to promote the “Say No to Domestic Violence” campaign for victims of domestic violence encountering family, marital or child-related problems.
Assistance extended to women irrespective of ethnic background includes legal counselling; family, marriage and youth counselling and assistance to victims; application to the Social Welfare Department for emergency protection orders (EPO); court applications for interim protection orders (IPO); arranging shelters; and social welfare aid.
Wanita MCA has also mobilised its Lawa centres established in 13 states and 192 divisions across the country to fully cooperate and promote the protection of women’s rights.
Lawa was established by Wanita MCA on Dec 16,2014, to provide justice and serve as a one-stop assistance centre for women from all ethnic groups in Malaysia, especially for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying.
It works with the Social Welfare Department, the police, the Malaysian Bar, Association of Women Lawyers and the International Islamic University of Malaysia to offer legal advice and related assistance for female victims.
Lawa also cooperates with the Malaysian Psychiatric Association to provide psychological counseling and assistance.
For any inquiries, please call or email the following - 03-2203 3884/ 012-386 3884/ email@example.com.
For domestic violence cases, victims may contact the police at 999 when the situation is urgent, or the multilingual Talian Kasih hotline, set up by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry at 15999.
Other help hotlines include:
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) at 03-7956 3488 or WhatsApp to 018-988 8058
Penang Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) in Penang, call 011-3108 4001,016-428 7265 or WhatsApp to 016-448 0342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
All Women's Action Society (AWAM) at its hotline 016-237 4221 or email to email@example.com.
DATUK HENG SEAI KIE
Wanita MCA National Chairperson