Men’s Affairs Department redundant as enough laws protecting men, women’s groups say

Majority of domestic violence victims are women, with men only making up less than 1 per cent of reported cases. ― File pic
Majority of domestic violence victims are women, with men only making up less than 1 per cent of reported cases. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 ― There is no need for the proposed Men’s Affairs Department in Putrajaya as it is women who comprise most of the abused victims, women’s rights groups said.

They also said existing legislation was sufficient to adequately represent all men, even in cases of domestic violence, making such a department redundant. 

“Policies, structures, procedures, everything is already done as per the patriarchal system under which we live. That is part of the status quo.

“We have a women's ministry which is to escalate and ensure women's issues issues are brought to the forefront and to the centre of government policy because at this time there's clearly serious gender inequality in society…It is almost like nullifying the efforts of the women's ministry, having a Men’s Affairs Department,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.

Malay daily Berita Harian carried on its front page yesterday an International Islamic University of Malaysia law professor’s suggestion that a special department dedicated to men’s affairs be set up under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to protect men from sexual discrimination and abuse.

Penang’s Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) senior advocacy officer Melissa Mohd Akhir also said that men’s rights were already covered in the “family” segment of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, thus making a specialised department within the ministry unnecessary.

Melissa added while all abuse cases should be treated equally regardless of gender, she also pointed out that the majority of victims are women, with men only making up less than 1 per cent of reported cases.

“If I'm not wrong, the numbers are something like 98 per cent are against women and 0.2 per cent are men. And for those, a majority are family members abusing each other so it could be a male family member abusing another male. In short, cases of women abusing men is minimal.

“And when men come forward, we have assisted them. If the ministry covers family and if they want to focus on something like a grandfather being abused, then we have no problem with that,” she said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.

According to a November report by broadcaster Astro Awani, however, the Women, Family and Community Development ministry was quoted as saying that 35.3 per cent of domestic violence cases from January to September 2014 involved male victims.

All Women's Action Society (AWAM) said in a statement that the Domestic Violence Act was already available to protect the rights of men, but conceded that more awareness needed to be raised on male victims of domestic violence.

“However, there perhaps is not enough awareness that men can also avail themselves to such protection.

“What we need is to ensure that existing services, such as the Jabatan Kebajikan under the women's ministry, are sufficiently resourced to provide necessary support to the family (including men) should they face domestic abuse,” said the women’s rights group, referring to the Welfare Department.

WAO said that it was “perplexing” why abuse against males was given so much attention despite the low percentage of reported cases, while the high number of abuse cases involving female victims was downplayed.

“Women are at constant risk of harm, even in their own family. Why it is that the small percentage, while it's wrong that anyone plays a part, that the small percentage of male abuse victims, why are we putting so much of a spotlight and emphasis on this issue?” she questioned.

AWAM echoed Sumitra’s statement, pointing out that women constantly face discrimination unlike anything men have to endure.

“The reality is that we live in a patriarchal society, and women face oppression, discrimination and violence in ways which men do not,” said AWAM.