Understanding Violence Against Women (VAW)

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What is Violence Against Women (VAW)?

Violence against women is a chosen action against a woman or girl child simply because of her gender, simpy because she is female. VAW is a form of regulating women's sexuality - her body, behavior, movement and expression

VAW cuts across lines of race, religion, income, class, and culture. VAW is compounded by discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, sexual identity, social status, class and age.

Some of the horrific examples of VAW in the world today:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Rape
  • Sexual harassment
  • Murders
  • Pornography
  • Marital rape
  • Date rape
  • Battery during pregnancy
  • Forced suicide of widows
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Sex selective abortion
  • Child marriages
  • Incest
  • Child prostitution
  • Female infanticide


Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (DV) is an abuse of power in an intimate relationship when one partner (usually male) attempts to control and dominate the other. It is not only physical but sexual, economic and almost always psychological leaving the woman disempowered and living in fear.

Some examples of domestic violence:

  • Physical or psychological (insults and put downs) abuse
  • Keeping her totally financially dependent
  • Making her constantly account for where she has been and with whom she has been
  • Restricting her use of the telephone or car
  • Humiliating her in front of her friends
  • Cutting her off from contacting her family and friends
  • Being abusive to family or friends so that they don't visit anymore
  • Isolating her from the support she needs to leave

Signs to indicate your relative, friends, neighbour or colleague may be a vicim of domestic violence

  • She has multiple bruises at various stages of healing
  • Her injuries are on unusual parts of the body, usually hidden
  • She claims her injuries are due to clumsiness
  • She has to account for all her movements to her abuser
  • She is often insulted and humiated by her perpetrator in public
  • She expresses fear of her abuser


Rape and Sexual Assault

Sex without consent is rape. In law, rape is limited to insertion of the penis into your vagina against your will. If you are under 16 years of age, sex with out without your consent is rape. 

Sexual assault includes forced anal sex, insertion of objects into your vagina, mouth or arms.

Facts about rape:

  • Rape is not an "over spill" of sexual energy. It is not an impulsive crime
  • A high percentage of rapist are acquaintences, "friends" or relatives
  • For every rape case that is reported, 9 go unreported
  • Rape is not prompted by provocative dressing. Many students, including women wearing the "tudung", and of all ages have been raped
  • Section 376 of the Malaysian Penal Code states that whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to 20 years and shall be liable for whipping
  • Marital rape is not legally recognized but the new Section 375 A states any husband causing fear of death or hurt to his wife in order to have sex shall be punished for a term which may extend to 5 years

What to do if you are raped:

  • Do not wash. Although your first instinct may be to clean yourself, do not wash. Go to the hospital bed immediately for a medical examination. There may be seminal and/ or body fluid, mud, debris, fibres, as well as hairs that provide important evidence
  • Go to the Emergency Room at a goverment hospital. The doctor will examine you and your genital area, as well as your clothes. You will also be asked to first fill out a form to give approval of the examination, and that the information will be used for a police investigation. You may request for a female gynaecologist if you are uncomfortable with a male doctor. Hospital staff will also notify the police. A female officer will take down your report at the hospital.
  • If you suspect you were given a drug, you should be tested ideally within the first 24 hours of ingestion
  • If you go to the police first, a female officer will accompany you to take your report and accompany you to the hospital
  • Contact a women's NGO. You may want or need counseling and support. The WAO Sexual Assault Line is 603-7936 3030


Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace refers to sexual conduct that is unwanted, unwelcome, or unsolicited. This includes request for sexual favors which are inappropriate and offensive.

Examples of sexual harassment:

  • Physical Harassment: Inappropriate touching, patting, pinching, stroking, brushing up against the body, hugging, kissing, fondling, sexual assault
  • Psychological: Repeated unwanted social invitations, relentless proposal for dates/ physical intimacy
  • Verbal Harassment: Comments, jokes, jesting, kidding, sounds (e.g; whistling), questioning, offensive or suggestive remarks
  • Non-verbal/ Gestural Harassment: Leering or ogling with suggestive overtones, licking lips/ holding or eating food provocatively, hand signal/ sign language denoting sexual activity, persistent flirting
  • Visual Harassment: Showing pornographic material, drawing sex based sketches/ writing sex-based letters, sexual exposure