Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)

WAO opened Malaysia's first Refuge for battered women and their children in 1982. WAO Vision is to create a society that is free of violence against women. The WAO mission is to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women and to work towards the elimination of discrimination against women and to bring about equality between women and men.
Jul 17, 2013

Break Free From Domestic Violence

“There’s often misconception that foreign women who are married to Malaysian men are planning to cheat them of their money. But in my case, I was the one cheated and treated badly. My children suffer a lot when my husband drinks. He hit them, leaving bruises and bloody wounds on their skin”.

Samantha* was born and grew up in China. She is a medical student who got married to her Malaysian husband in 2009 and has been staying in Malaysia ever since. Her nightmare began when she was pregnant. “I was not allowed to eat. I don’t even get to eat leftover food because my in-law would rather throw them away. I might not be physically abused at this point, but there was psychological abuse for sure. I was told that I am unable to open a bank account or buy properties because I am a foreigner. I was also told by my in-laws that they are not rich hence I should not expect much from them. My husband is always bringing up money issues. All I wanted was to raise a family together and lead a simple life. I was naïve. I didn’t think that the situation can get any worse”.

It did. “I was accused of being an indecent person just because I told off someone in his family for trying to sexually harass me. I am a woman who wants her space and privacy respected. I shouldn’t be discriminated just because these people think that women from China are bad news”. Samantha and her husband then moved out and into a rented property and she was due to deliver. “He didn’t accompany me during my delivery. I was given painkillers until I passed out. Water broke but doctors were not alerted. After the surgery, he became worse. He would call my mother during my confinement period and tell her that I am lazy and irresponsible. He gets angry all the time when the children are noisy. He bites them, on their cheek and arm until it bleeds”.

Samantha’s husband is often drunk and when he is intoxicated, he let it out on everyone. “He threatens me all the time. He keeps a parang in the house. I have also caught him trying to stifle our crying son with a pillow until the boy turned purple. There was one time at home that he hit the children and punched my sister’s face while pinning her to the ground and taunting her. We managed to escape from the house and make a police report”. 

She turned to WAO for help in 2011.

“There were instances in the shelter when I just sit in my room and was totally oblivious to everything that is happening around me. The social workers would come by and ask if I am alright. I would cry all the time. I was struggling to understand my situation”.

Social Work Manager, Su Zane was in charge of Samantha’s case. “Su Zane became my friend. She is such great help. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t know exactly what to do. I have learnt a lot from this experience. I now know more about legal procedures, who to call during emergencies. Since young, I was raised to be kind, to not hurt the feeling of others. I don’t think I have changed much but I have become stronger and I no longer cry about what has happened. I felt like I have grown up a lot in such a short time”.

Samantha is only in her 20s and she is really looking forward to a better life with her children. “Am I worried if my children are affected by the violence at home? Yes, I am and I also have so many other concerns. So I plan to focus on educating them. I have met so many single parents out there, working hard to earn a living. I can do it too and give the best to my children. We have so much ahead of us!”

For Samantha, WAO was one of her many turning points in her journey to recovery. The shelter gave her time and space to recuperate, contemplate her future and restart her life. In 2012, WAO gave temporary shelter to 133 women. 62% of these women sought shelter as a result of domestic violence. Among the 133 women, 50 of them were non-Malaysians like Samantha. Whether you are foreign or local, women in Malaysia can rely on WAO to help them to be free from violence.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Links:

Apr 19, 2013

Aiyoh...WatLah?!

Do you remember doing a facepalm when someone utters something ridiculous, like how women shouldn’t drive Unfortunately, public figures in Malaysia routinely make jaw dropping remarks that makes you go ‘Aiyoooo!’ (a local expression of disbelief) while cringing. This Malaysian term has been adopted as the name of a spoof awards ceremony to highlight sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia in the Malaysian public sphere.

Inaugurated last year, the Aiyoh… WatLah?! Awards was created by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) which comprises of nine non-governmental organizations to raise awareness on sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia and to encourage higher standards of behaviour from public figures, policy makers and institutions in relation to gender and sexuality.

The Awards focuses on public statements and actions instead of individuals and institutions. Selected from media reports in 2012, the nominees contend for one of seven categories: “Foot in Mouth”, “Insulting Intelligence”, “Policy Fail”, “Cannot Ignore”, “Least Helpful to the Sisterhood”, “Enough Already!” and “Right on Track”.

The shortlist of nominees also saw the perpetuation of discriminatory attitudes towards the LGBT community in particular, reflected in the “Enough Already!” category which highlights statements and acts that repeat sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, or transphobic messages. This year, three of the four nominees under this category targeted LGBTs, whether through organising forums and publishing guidelines to identify symptoms of homosexuality in order to stop their “spread” or by demonising LGBTs as a source of social ills and an offence to religion. The fourth nominee was the harassment against Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-chair of Bersih 2.0.

The Aiyoh...WatLah?! Awards also recognises positive statements and actions via the “Right on Track” category aside from just highlighting discriminatory attitudes. It is great to acknowledge those who believe in fighting against discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality.

So, who will be honoured this year at the Aiyoh...WatLah?! Awards 2013? We will find out at the awards ceremony on 26 May! Visit aiyohwatlah.tumblr.com to see the full list of nominees.

WAO is a coordinating organisation of the Awards and is a member of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

p/s Here’s a statement made by one of the nominees when overturning the conviction of a kindergarten operator accused of raping a 4 year-old child - “We must not forget who is involved in this rape allegation, even if she is an adult, in which women have a tendency to exaggerate about a sexual act.”

Links:

Jan 19, 2013

What is Rape?

Dear friends of WAO

The recent case of a 23 year old student who was sexually assaulted on a bus in New Delhi shocked the world. She was brutally raped and beaten before being thrown off together with her male companion who also suffered injuries. This horrifying incident remains headline news worldwide. People are angry and disturbed by the brutality of this rape and murder of a young woman.

You might think that such rape cases only happen in less developed countries but here in Malaysia, rape is a dark reality for women too. I would like to quote a paragraph from the press statement issued by Malaysian women’s groups on 16 January 2013, “We remember Noor Suzaily Mukhtar, a 24 year old computer engineer who was raped and strangled in a bus by the driver; and Canny Ong, a 28 year old computer analyst who was abducted from a basement car park, raped and set on fire. We also remember our children – Nurul Hanis Kamil, a 16 year old who was brutally raped and murdered on the way home from school, Nurul Huda Ghani, a 10 year old, who was abducted and killed by a security guard, and 8 year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, who was sodomised and murdered. Between 2001 and 2011, police statistics show that incidences of reported rape have increased from 1217 to 3301. These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg as research demonstrates that many victims do not report rape for various reasons including stigmatisation, victim blaming and fear of not being believed”.

When a man rapes society often believes that the perpetrator is ‘sick’ and has ‘problems’ therefore, unable to control himself while the victim should take responsibility for being the cause of rape. Why create excuses for the aggressor? Women, however, are told not to be out late and alone, not to wear make-up, not to wear tight fitting clothes and so on. Plenty of nots while rape still occurs.

According to our Social Work Manager, Su Zane, there are many cultural myths surrounding the issue of rape. “Women especially Asians are often told that they have to live up to the ‘good girl’ image and that their body is pure and sacred, their dignity is lost forever if their bodies are violated. It then becomes difficult for a woman to tell anyone let alone lodge a police report when she’s raped or assaulted because she feels that she is no longer clean”. Rape myths are damaging because they shift the crime from the perpetrator to the victim.

In an article ‘I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t’, Sohaila Abdulali says “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals”.

You and I, we can put a stop to this and be part of the solution. We can teach our children to understand their own bodies and respect others. We can teach young people that rape cannot be used as a colloquial word. We can eradicate sexism and educate the society on sexual violence and the reality of rape. We can be the change that we want.

For 31 years, WAO provides shelter and counseling to survivors of violence. Many women have sought our help because they have chosen to stop the cycle of violence. Be our advocates in stopping violence against women and lend your voice to the survivors. It’s time to stop rape and speak up. Women and men.

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