Domestic violence against women has increased in Malaysia since the outbreak of COVID-19 prompted the ‘lockdowns.’
“There were 9,015 police reports on domestic violence during the movement control order period in 2020 and 2021 alone; these statistics may not include reports received by NGOs and other support organisations,” says an NGO calling on Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development to resign.
Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff is seen in a video urging women to practically submit to their husbands and for the husbands to “gently discipline them” if they (wives) are disobedient.
The Minister was attempting to express her thoughts on Quranic verses, which are usually left to religious leaders to interpret.
“There is often a stigma and fear attached to reporting domestic violence and this is made worse by statements such as those of Siti Zailah,” the NGO, a coalition of women’s group called Join Action Group or JAG says.
According to JAG), the comment made by the lawmaker from the Islamist party PAS may result in the normalisation of domestic violence.
“The deputy minister must step down for normalising domestic violence, which is a crime in Malaysia as well as for perpetuating ideas and behaviours that are opposed to gender equality,” it says.
On Saturday, Siti Zailah shared a 2-minute video clip in which she discussed various methods for husbands to reprimand their wives and urged women to be gentler with their husbands.
She also advises arguing couples to sleep separately for three days, continue with their prayers, and reprimand obstinate wives with a “gentle but firm physical touch.”
Her remarks sparked outrage among lawmakers and internet users. Women’s non-governmental organisations are now calling for her head to roll.
MPs Hannah Yeoh and Nurul Izzah Anwar blasted the deputy minister for her comments.
According to Nurul Izzah, “this so-called advice” is a disservice to women because it contradicts current realities and needs.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has only seen an increase in domestic abuse, with a total of 9,015 cases reported, mostly against women,” she wrote on Twitter.
Yeoh suggested that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob ask Siti Zailah to demonstrate how men should reprimand their wives using “gentle but firm physical touch.”
Another minister in hot water
While the Women Affairs Deputy Minister remains silent in the face of the backlash, the high-ranking Minister of Defence has come under fire for violating the SOPs in place during the Johor by-election.
Hishamuddin Hussain is accused of violating the SOPs, prompting Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin to request that the Minister be arrested.
However, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob stated today that Ministers who violate SOPs are not required to resign. He claims that if every single official resigned over SOPs, he would have no one to work with.