This Sunday is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: an important reminder of an outrageous and all too common problem.
Malaysia has a strong track record when it comes to women’s rights, and I am proud of the progress we have made so far in ensuring equality in the workforce and the government. Across the country, Malaysians are working to make our society safer – and more equal.
But despite this progress, cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment, incest and rape still make the headlines. Between 2008 to May 2012, the Women’s Development Department recorded 8,653 cases requiring guidance and counselling.
I don’t believe these issues can or should be left to victims or their families to deal with alone. The safety of all citizens is a moral duty of national importance and cannot be ignored. As both Women’s Minister and Prime Minister, I promise to do whatever I can to curtail the unacceptable levels of violence against women.
We have already successfully kicked off the Women’s Safety Campaign 2012 to increase women’s awareness and knowledge of the risks. It is only half-way through, but has already surpassed its target for participants – a fantastic achievement. The Government also actively provides emotional support and shelter to victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. This year alone, the Women’s Development Department has organised 16 guidance and counselling programmes nationwide, involving 901 participants.
We will also continue to empower women in the workplace, so they may be more independent and less likely to fall victim to abuse. Right now, we are working hand in hand with NGOs and the private sector to ensure women’s concerns are included in government policies. In Budget 2013, incentives such as grants, tax reductions and allowances are being allocated to private early education centres, giving women more freedom to explore the workplace and expand their career horizons.
We as a society must continue championing women’s rights and taking the necessary steps to prevent violence against women. I make this plea, not only as a politician, but as a husband and a father as well. Violence against women takes many forms, but none are acceptable. Today, let us all take a step back and do what is necessary to ensure the women we love are protected.