Women's Rights

women's rights

Some of the most active NGOs are those concerned with women or gender issues. Violence against women has been a dominant theme in the demand for women's rights. After nine years of lobbying by women's organisations, the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) was enacted in 1994.

According to SUARAM, " An analysis of the act reveals that it falls short substantively and/or in its implementation in providing redress for women survivors of violence." Evaluation of the act at the end of 1996 revealed that the emphasis appears to be on reconciliation rather than protection. According to the Women's Aid Organisation that runs a shelter for battered women in Selangor, an interim protection order (IPO) can only be issued at the request of the Social Welfare Department. Given the Department's emphasis on reconciling the family, women seldom have access to the IPO. Furthermore, a woman is treated as a ward of the state and does not have the choice to apply for the IPO by herself (Suaram, 1998: 99).

Women's groups have also been concerned with the incidence of rape, the problem of sex workers and trafficking in women. SUARAM makes the following concluding points in its 1998 human rights report on the gender issues:

" The latest statistics show that currently 9 women a day make a police report, 3 of whom report having been raped, 4 of being battered and 2 of sexual harassment. The facts suggest that we can assume that there are at least another 9 cases that go unreported [for each case], which results in a total of about 90 cases of battery or sexual abuse per day nationally. In addition, 142,000 women are believed to be involved in prostitution in Malaysia. Eradicating the violence perpetrated against women calls for a change in the attitudes in society that perpetuate culture-bound sexual double standards which discriminate against women." (1998:117).