Femicide: Malaysian women are generally unaware, think it is ‘not a thing’ here

06 May 2022 08:30pm
Malaysians not only lack a nuanced understanding of violence, many women believe that the worst danger that could befall a woman is rape, and not murder.
Malaysians not only lack a nuanced understanding of violence, many women believe that the worst danger that could befall a woman is rape, and not murder.

SHAH ALAM - Over 80 per cent of Malaysians are able to identify physical and non-physical forms of violence, but many believe that domestic violence is a result of daily stress and frustration and that they can easily get out of abusive relationships.

In a recent study by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) on the public’s attitudes and perceptions towards violence against women, the organisation found that Malaysians lacked a nuanced understanding of violence.

In the study, many Malaysians were able to identify both physical and non-physical forms of violence with high accuracy, and over half of Malaysians agreed that domestic violence was a result of everyday stress, while over a third of Malaysians agreed that abusive relationships were not difficult to leave as people made it seemed.

“This creates an environment that makes it difficult for people who experience abuse and violence to speak up and may even normalise and justify violence for some victims, if we consistently frame it as just a reaction instead of a choice that people make,” says Research and Advocacy Officer of WAO Anis Farid.

The World Health Organisation said the term femicide was generally understood to be the intentional murder of women and girls simply because of their gender, but broader definitions have now come to include any killings involving females.

Although men usually perpetrated femicide, female family members could sometimes indirectly committed the crime.

Unlike male homicide, many femicide cases were committed by partners or the victims’ exes, which often escalated from repeated domestic abuse and eventually led to murder.

The cases usually start with threats and intimidation, might involve sexual violence, and has a higher chance of occurring when the women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.

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Other categories of femicide include non-intimate femicide (where the victim does not have any relations to their attacker), honour killings (where the victim’s murder is to “protect the dignity and honour” of the attacker and their family), and dowry-related femicide.

Sinar Daily spoke to three Malaysian women about their thoughts about femicide and its dangers, if there were any.

Selvie Kumari, a content moderator who worked a permanent night shift said she feared for her safety whenever she left home for work at 11.30pm five days a week.

Whenever she walked to the train station to get to work, she admitted to being cautious as anything could happen especially since the journey required a 10-minute walk through dimly lit alleyways, but the first thing that popped up in her mind was the fear of being sexually assaulted.

“To me, murder is not on the forefront of my mind.

“It just doesn’t happen as often here (in the country) so I am not worried about that,” she said.

This sentiment was shared by 33-year-old Nabila Arsyad, who had to take two buses and a train ride daily.

Although she had never heard of the term femicide, she knew what honour killings were.

“It’s not a thing here. I’m more anxious about the possibility of being raped, but I don’t think there are those that will go so far as to murder after,” she said.

A university student Goh Mei Ling (not her real name) also did not understand the meaning of the term femicide.

To her, the worst thing that could happen to a woman was being raped.

“Culturally, we don’t have things such as honour killings here, so it’s never been a concern of mine.

“The only thing I get scared of is being followed home and being sexually assaulted as a result,” Mei Ling said.