With the whole #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, many still seem to downplay the movement’s purposes, calling many feminists snowflakes and claiming equality already exists. And since it’s the Season For Non-Violence, here’s a few facts that you need to know about the violence women go through and why this movement is vital towards equality – whether you claim to be a feminist or not (in case you’re one of those who don’t know what feminism is really about and think we’re ALL Lena Dunhams).
1. Most women experience physical abuse in their lifetime
A national survey of American woman found that 51.9% of women reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their life, and just for your information, these numbers are from year 2000 because that’s the last time the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on the prevalence of violence against women. And though this is scary enough because it’s higher than other developed countries, one-quarter of Swedish women reported experience physical violence during their lifetime too. So imagine what those numbers would really be like in a third world country like Malaysia? Well, it’s a total of 57, 518 cases reported from 2010 until March 2017. Now, imagine what those numbers really are since many many women are still scared to speak out about the violence they been through?
2. Many women experience physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner
Around 1.3 million women are victimised every year by an intimate partner, a.k.a spouses, ex-spouses or significant others, and the rate of violence by an intimate partner for women are much higher than they are for men. In the US, 72% of rapes are perpetrated by an intimate partner.
7 out of 10 assaults against women are also perpetrated by an intimate partner and it is estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In some national studies, these numbers can go up to 70%.
In addition to that, women who have been physically/sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence.
According to the FBI, 1 in 13 murder victims are killed by their husband or boyfriend and I can’t imagine what those numbers must be for Malaysians as domestic violence is rampant in this country. It is also estimated that of all women who were the victims of homicide GLOBALLY in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members, compared to less than 6% of men killed in the same year.
3. Many women were raped in their lifetime
Now it’s hard to get actual numbers since the statistics on rape and other sexual assaults are only commonly available in industrialized countries. There’s also an inconsistent definition of rape, different rates of reporting, recording, prosecution and conviction, creating controversial statistical disparities. And in many parts of the world, only male-female rape exists whilst there are other countries that do not consider sex on a spouse as ‘rape’. Rape is such a severely under-reported crime with an appalling 91.6% going unreported with many reasons as to why it goes unreported.
But just to touch on the subject regarding rape IN MALAYSIA itself, statistics have shown that most rape cases happen to girls below the age of 16. Moreover, stats from the Home Ministry also show that from 2005 till July 2014, out of the staggering 28,471 rape cases that were reported, only 16% of them were brought to court and only 2.7% of the perpetrators were found guilty. So, if you’re wondering what’s one of the reasons why many Malaysian women don’t report rape, this is probably one of the reasons why.
To make the number easier to understand, about 3,000 cases are reported EVERY YEAR (data from 2006-2015, clearly showing it’s not deceasing) but only 2 out of 10 cases actually make it to court. And also can we talk about the inconsistencies with the Malaysian court pertaining to rape? Remember the time I said only 2.7% of perpetrators were found guilty? Well, the maximum sentence for rape is 20 years in prison and caning, however, marital rape only sentences a perpetrator for only 5 years (maximum) with no minimum sentence. Great.
Worldwide, about 750 million women and girls were married before their 18th birthday – which sounds pretty normal in certain parts of Malaysia, which is actually quite mind-boggling if you wrap your head around it. Child marriages are more common in West and Central Africa where over 4 in 10 girls are married before the age of 17 and around 1 in 7 were married or in a union before age 15. If you don’t think child marriages are bad, studies have found that child marriages often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence.
About 120 million girls worldwide – more than 1 in 10 – have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives, and by far the most common perpetrators are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends.
5. Female university/college student also face sexual assault
If you think education means less assault, you’re wrong. 23% of female undergraduates have reported to have experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct in a survey done across 27 universities in the US in 2015.
6. Female genital mutilation is still happening
globally. At least 200 million women and girls alive today have gone through FGN as it is still legal in about 30 countries, and in many of these countries, majority of girls were cut before the age of 5.
In Malaysia, FGM Type 1 is prevalent where 93% of females in Muslim families go through it because it is widely considered as a female Sunnah tradition, and is typically in the old days done by a midwife, though today, it is now done by medical physicians. The procedure is either a minor prick or by curring off a small piece of the highest part of the clitoral hood and foreskin. So no, you can’t really see it ‘just by looking at it’. Why? Well, 82% of Malaysian women claim religious obligation as a primary reason, 41% claim it’s hygienic, and 32% claim other major motivators for FGM prevalence. We also have no laws in reference to FGM and the Malaysian government sponsored 86th conference of Malaysia’s Fatwa Committee National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs held in April 2009 decided that female circumcision is part of Islamic teachings and it should be observed by Muslims, with the majority of the jurists in the Committee concluding that female circumcision is obligatory. In 2012, our government health ministry had also proposed guidelines to reclassify and allow female circumcision as a medical practice.
7. Women and girls make up the majority of human trafficking victims
Adult women make up 51% of all human trafficking victims globally whilst women and girls together account for 71%, with girls representing nearly 3 out of every 4 child trafficking victims. Nearly 3 out of 4 trafficked women and girls are also trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Malaysia is considered a destination, source, and transit country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced prostitution and forced labour (for men too). A significant number of young women are also recruited to work in Malaysian restaurants and hotels, some of whom migrate through the use of “Guest Relations Officer” visas, but are coerced into Malaysia’s commercial sex trade. Women from China are also even nicknamed “China Dolls”.
Even though the Government of Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, they are making efforts to do so, hence why the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has placed our country in Tier 2, from a Tier 3 in 2014.