The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is a worldwide campaign to bring attention to gender-based violence.
Every year, the campaign starts on Nov 25 (runs from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov 25 till until Dec 10 (Human Rights Day on Dec 10.
The theme for this year’s campaign, Orange the World: #HearMeToo, hopes to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
Orange is the theme colour of the campaign, symbolising a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls
In a joint statement to the media, the United Nation country team for Malaysia says: “For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions – one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence. The time for change is here and now.”
Gender-based violence can take many forms, from unwanted verbal sexual advances to harassment to physical acts of violence, at the workplace, in public spaces and in homes.
The campaign aims to bring to give women and girls the space to letfor their voices be heard – those who have survived violence, those who are defending women’s rights and who are taking action away from the limelight and headlines – by encouraging them to tell their stories on social media platforms, using the hashtag #HearMeToo.
This year, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is focusing their campaign on stalking and are pushing the government to recognise it as a crime.
“Stalking is currently not a crime in Malaysia, which means that if someone were to repeatedly contact you, follow you, or show up at places you frequent – all classic forms of stalking – there is little that the authorities can do,” says Women’s Aid Organisation WAO advocacy and communications officer, Tan Heang-Lee.
Stalking, she says, is extremely harmful and can lead to mental health consequences, including anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Stalking often escalates to more severe forms of violence. In Canada and the United States, 90% of women who were murdered by their partners had been stalked.
“Stalking is a tactic that violent partners use to control and instil fear in their partners,” says Tan.
According to a 2014 study by Universiti Sains Malaysia, 9% of women in Peninsular Malaysia who have ever been in a relationship have experienced domestic violence. This is equivalent to over 900,000 women.
In a 2013 WAO Women’s Aid Organisation report documenting 34 domestic violence cases, 26% of these cases involved stalking.
This figure is consistent with statistics in other countries: in the US, a third of women domestic violence survivors experience stalking.
Based on these figures, it is possible that around 250,000 domestic violence survivors in Malaysia have been stalked by their abusers.
“We should include stalking as an offence in the Penal Code and introduce a restraining order against stalkers in the Criminal Procedure Code.
“Law enforcers and lawmakers from both sides agree on the need for anti-stalking laws, but there needs to be the urgency to pass these laws.
It’s time Malaysia joins the ranks of many countries around the world that have criminalised stalking such as Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, India, South Africa, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“Many countries enacted stalking laws after a high profile stalking-murder shocks the country. There are Malaysian women are already being stalked, and eventually murdered or maimed. Do we need to wait for a high profile case to shock the nation before we act?” asks Tan. – By S. Indramalar
The Women’s Aid Organisation hotline can be reached at: 03 7956 3488 (Monday to Saturday: 9am-5pm; extended hours on Tues, Wed and Fri: 7pm -10pm.). Or, you can message or WhatsApp TINA at +018 988 8058 for assistance.
> Non-profit organisation Empower Malaysia will be running the ‘Festival Perempuan’ from Dec 5 to 9 to provide a space for women’s voices through digital storytelling, an online sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) exhibition, poetry nights, musical performances, human libraries and other activities. For more info: https://bit.ly/2RjUWWT
> The United Nations Populations Fund will be holding a photo exhibition in collaboration with women’s NGOs on the effects of gender-based violence on women and society from Nov 30 to Dec 3 at Publika Shopping Gallery.
> A joint event between the United Nations Gender Theme Group and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to raise awareness about sexual harassment will be held. The event on Dec 7 will include a panel discusion between government representatives, civil society and activists to lobby parliamentarians and policy makers on the need for laws on sexual harassment.