Budget 2023: More budget needed for domestic, gender-based violence, say women group

07 Oct 2022 09:32pm
Photo for illustration purposes only -123RF photo
Photo for illustration purposes only -123RF photo

SHAH ALAM – Allocation for domestic and gender-based violence in Budget 2023 is significantly lesser than previous years, possibly reflecting the authorities’ view that gender-based violence as a lesser priority.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Sumitra Visvanathan expressed her disappointed that there was comparably less money channelled towards domestic and gender-based violence this year.

“This suggests that combating gender-based violence is of less priority to the administration, despite its sustained prevalence post-pandemic and clear impact on women’s livelihoods,” she told Sinar Daily.

Sumitra said the RM8 million allocation for strengthening local and social support centres to combat this violence was lesser compared to allocations given to the police’s Sexual Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) last year.

She also added that many allocations announced in last year’s budget have not received sufficient monitoring and evaluation, including allocations for the D11 unit and for period products promised to 130,000 B40 groups to alleviate period poverty.

However, she also listed some noteworthy announcements in Budget 2023.

“These include the Gender Focal Teams for each ministry and agency.

“It will be pertinent that these Gender Focal Teams be implemented through a gender lens, with representative teams in each ministry and agency taking part to ensure meaningful participation,” she said.

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She also applauded the announcement to kickstart the formation of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill but also mentioned that it was very important that its implementation remains survivor-centric.

Sumitra also mentioned that the Employment Act and Anti-Stalking Law reforms were not mentioned in this evening’s budget tabling but it was crucial to monitor their implementation hand-in-hand with other measures in expanding women’s rights in Malaysia.

However, she said the Budget 2023 did not focus on crucial measures that will enable greater economic participation for women.

“Increasing women’s participation in the economy has been roundly accepted as a critical path to increasing Malaysia’s GDP,” she said.

The principal among this, she said, happened due to the lack of recognition in the budget for the need for universally accessible and affordable childcare in the communities where people live.

“The related allocations made via this budget seem targeted to middle-class earners and not B40 groups, who are clearly in greatest need of affordable and standards-based community-based childcare,” she said.

Meanwhile, Women’s Action Society programme manager Lilian Kok said there was no mention of follow-up plans in Budget 2023 which should have been a follow-up from Budget 2022.

She said some of the follow-ups that should be mentioned were subsidies for mammogram tests and cervical cancer screening tests which decreased from RM11.5 million last year to RM11 million this year, allocations to strengthening the local and social support centres from RM4.5 million last year to RM8 million and the increase in funding for women entrepreneurship programmes from RM230 million to RM235 million this year.

For Lilian, she felt Budget 2023 was insufficient because there was an absence of results from the allocations of Budget 2022 which raised many questions as to how this year’s budget increment will assist in what it has set out to do.

She also said the income tax relief measure for childcare primarily benefits those in the tax-paying system.

“Hence, excluding those who need it most, specifically B40 families in the informal sector and gig workers,” she said.

She added that for Budget 2023 to improve its allocation for women, the government should provide more allocations to combat period poverty.

“The previous budget of monthly handout of basic sanitary kits to 130,000 was more like a one-off solution,” she said.

She also hoped that issues of gender sensitivity will also be included in the training programmes of police officers.