Gender-based violence, is an unfamiliar term to most Malaysians. It is not a common topic frequently discussed by the public, and one that has not received a lot of attention in our society.  

In Malaysia, gender-based violence occurs regularly and these incidents are increasing every year. With the increase of cases happening, we must reflect on the reasons why. 

First of all, what is gender-based violence ?

Gender-based violence are sexual violent acts or threats to others based on gender norms and biases as well as unequal power relations. It also includes violence and discrimination experienced by individuals due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

It is a phenomenon that is deeply rooted in gender inequality and violates the human rights (EIGE). It also desecrate individual’s basic rights by preventing them from exercising their social, economic and political rights (UNDP). Gender-based violence denies the human dignity of individual and hurts human development (UNHCR). 

As mentioned above, gender-based violence happens to be a common issue in our everyday life. In the case of gender-based violence, women are often victims, caused by unequal power relations between men and women. Nevertheless, some men are also victims in gender-based violence. However, people don’t usually perceive men as victims due to the stereotype of men that are usually seen as the stronger and more powerful sex. 

Moreover, the LGBTIQ community are also frequently the victims of gender-based violence. They are the ones that are most vulnerable in receiving unwanted harm and violence because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Labels of ‘other’ and ‘abnormal’ put upon them often lead to discrimination, stereotypes and violence just because they are seen as different from everyone else. 

The truth is everyone can be victims of gender-based violence.  Gender-based violence can happen everyday, everywhere and to anyone. 

Gender-based violence can be inflicted physically, emotionally, sexually, and financially, detrimental in causing harassment, abuse, violence, rape, slavery, as well as unwanted and early pregnancy and marriages. 

So, why does gender-based violence happen ?

Gender-based violence take places all around the world, but it is more risky where violence is normalised and where rigid concepts of gender exist (Plan.org).  

In many cultures and societies, violence towards women and girls are considered acceptable as a social norm. Many of our current societies are constructed in a heteronormative ideology. Not to mention certain groups like minorities and marginalised communities are also more vulnerable in cases of violence. This issue must be challenged and rectified urgently, and the blame, shame and stigma faced by victims must be eliminated (Plan.org). 

Everyone must understand that the trauma suffered by the victim has never been something that they wanted. Our society should not deepen the wounds, but help them to move on. Instead, the perpetrators should be blamed.

Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. However, it remains shrouded in a culture of silence (UNFPA). The hardest part for all is to speak out.

Just like what we see with the ME TOO movement, where there are an emergence of people speaking out for the first time about their toxic past. It shows that it usually take ages for people to have the courage to talk about their problems and difficulties. Many victims share the same mindset, “perhaps I shall tolerate it and over time, my feeling and the trauma I feel will be reduced.” The fact is the harm of gender-based violence is endless. 

As for the individuals, it is significant to break the silence of harm as silence offers impunity to perpetrators, the only way to defend the victim is to voice out. When the silence is broken, it recognises the violations of civil and political rights towards the victim. This allows justice to be sought, and to sanction the perpetrators. (Pittaway, 2007) 

For Malaysia, I think there is still a long journey to combat gender-based violence. Government and organisations must work together and support capacities to prevent violence.

In order to effectively respond to gender-based violence in our country, action must be taken by fellow stakeholders as soon as possible. The government can implement policies and decrees related to gender-based violence. For instance, integrate such issues into our primary healthcare and family-planning services. National level of public awareness could be raised through national education and prevention of violence must be instil into our education since young.

Furthermore, scholars could conduct research topic on gender-based violence in order to inform actions for the government, institutions, organisations and activists. Research done in  such topic could prove the harms of gender-based violence and contribute in fighting against it. Additionally, development of dedicated spaces that provide integrated services to ensure justice and protection for all victims should also be put in place. As for the survivors, multi-sectoral support and services must be provided. There should also be a safe space where they can be protected, to help them heal. (UNDP) 

It is worth noting that, although such prevention and support are given, it is important to make sure everyone gain an equal universal access to the resources provided, including minorities and marginalized community.

Although we have a government, institutions, organisations and even friends and family around us that are helpful, many of the victims could not even gain assess for help due to limitations and restrictions such as sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), age, race and many more.

It is true that there is a lack of equal universal assess for everyone to enjoy and receive the same help and support provided, this problem should be addressed in order for them to receive the protection they need and enjoy their rights to live in a safe and secured environment.

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

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