Women’s groups and politicians have disagreed with Wanita MCA’s proposal to hold karate classes as a way of discouraging domestic violence.They noted the difference between learning martial arts and defending oneself in a violent household. The suggestion also implied it was victims’ own responsibility to protect themselves from abuse.Rather than tell women to keep themselves safe, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Sumitra Visvanathan (above) said the focus should be on condemning the violence. “This is a misplaced emphasis. Why do we put the onus on women to keep ourselves safe? “We need to direct resources to instead build a society that is intolerant of violence against women,” she told Malaysiakini. “Let us choose to challenge the stereotype that it's a woman's burden to defend herself from harm. It is the government and society's responsibility to safeguard women's right to live free from violence,” Sumitra stressed. Domestic violence is defined as any act of violence or abuse used by someone within the domestic sphere to exercise power and control over another. It can include physical, sexual and psychological abuse as well as isolation from friends and family. Awam's services programme officer Mayna Patel,All Women’s Action Society (Awam) services programme officer Mayna Patel, who has experience in handling domestic violence cases, said the karate class suggestion ignored realities on the ground. Survivors should be encouraged to reach out for professional help instead. “To suggest things like self-defence to survivors does not reflect the situation that they are going through, mainly in regards to their mental and emotional state of mind. “Survivors need professional support like counselling and legal information. These are important to gain the confidence and self-esteem of the survivors to take action,” she said when contacted. “Violence is never the answer to domestic violence,” Mayna said. Earlier today, Wanita MCA president Heng Seai Kie announced that the party would be organising an online course entitled “Karate Defence and Self Protect” from March 12 to 20 to counter domestic abuse.She had encouraged wives to “fight back with full force” to deter perpetrators and enable them to “reform”. However, Heng appeared to jest that women should not injure their spouses using their martial art skills or risk damaging their marriage. Aside from karate classes, the party has also set up a unit to offer legal and psychological support for those suffering from domestic violence.Sending wrong message Meanwhile, Wanita PKR Legal and Community Development Bureau chief Fadhlina Siddiq chastised Wanita MCA for its problematic messaging.Wanita PKR Legal and Community Development Bureau chief Fadhlina SiddiqShe stressed the difference between promoting martial arts as a sport and as a way of protecting oneself against abuse. She also pointed out that domestic violence was not restricted to physical violence alone and could be perpetrated against anyone including men, children and the elderly. “Using physical violence to solve or to retaliate against domestic violence is not a good solution. “Anyone advocating against domestic violence will in no way compromise by saying violence can be solved by using another form of violence. “This is the wrong message to the public, especially coming from Wanita MCA, an organisation not trained in handling domestic violence cases,” Fadlina said in a statement. rrrrDAP’s women’s wing similarly criticised Heng for her statement, including her apparent joke that women should not injure their spouses in the bedroom using their martial art skills.“Marital rape is not a joke.“Saying that ‘a wife may have earlier fought (with her husband) during the day but at night when they turn in to the bedroom, there is usually a happy ending’ shows how disconnected and detached Heng is in belittling the plight of women who suffer at the hands of their abusive partners at any time of the day, in or out of the bedroom,” it said in a separate statement this evening. They further called on their MCA counterpart to urge the Perikatan Nasional government to step up its efforts to end gender-based violence. “As a political party which is part of the government now, Wanita MCA should call on the government not to rest on its laurels and push for reforms in tabling the amendments to criminalise stalking.“(And to) empower and propel education and awareness programmes from the school level right up to enforcement officers on the latest developments on how we as a nation can push and fight against gender-based violence,” it said. Are you or someone you know facing domestic violence?Call WAO’s 24-hour helpline at +603 3000 8858 or WhatsApp +6018 988 8058. Or contact Awam’s Telenita helpline at +6016 237 4221 for free counselling and legal information. Online assistance is also provided by Awam and the WAO.
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