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Violence Against Women Has Widespread Societal Ramifications: Nancy Shukri

Not only are survivors of violence less likely to participate meaningfully in their communities or labour force, gender based violence also has the ability to dismantle family structures and perpetuate generational cycles of violence.

Nancy Shukri, Karima El Korri, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei Darussalam, and Asa Torkelsson alongside key partners in government and civil society officially launch the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) 2023. Photo by Annice Lyn / UNFPA Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 – KL Tower was lit up in orange last Friday night to celebrate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) and 16 Days of Activism, which began the next day on November 25, and will continue until December 10.

Due to the brightness and optimism it evokes, the colour orange was adopted by the UN to represent a future free from violence against women and girls.

The evening launch event, organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Malaysia, brought together key stakeholders in the arena towards ending Gender Based Violence (GBV) to collectively and symbolically launch the global call to end violence against women in Malaysia.

In her keynote address, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) Nancy Shukri, reminded the audience that the impacts of violence against women were not limited to women, but had widespread societal ramifications.

“Survivors face difficulty in addressing their trauma and are less likely to participate meaningfully in their communities or labour force,” she said.

The minister also pointed out that gender based violence has the ability to dismantle family structures and perpetuate generational cycles of violence.

Ultimately, the stunted development of women and their families can impact the socioeconomic development of communities and countries as a whole.

“UN Women estimated that the global cost of violence against women amounted to a whopping US1.5 trillion, stemming from loss of employment and productivity, and major resources required for social services, the justice system, healthcare agencies and employers,” said Nancy, adding that “long-standing structural factors especially that surrounding gender equity are one of the significant drivers of violence against women”.

These structural factors not only lead to the economic disempowerment of women but also perpetuate a vicious cycle, said the minister.

“Being financially disempowered exposes women to violence, which then makes it harder for them to earn a living and further increases their economic insecurity, leaving them more vulnerable than ever to continued cycles of violence.”  

Nancy stressed that addressing violence is a shared responsibility between the government, the private sector and all Malaysians: “We must all play a part in ensuring our workplaces are environments of safety, where there is zero tolerance for harassment or violence of any kind.

“The private sector has an immense role to play in ensuring that workplace culture proactively evolves to become inclusive, non-discriminatory and in consideration of unpaid care work duties of all employees — female as well as male,” she added.

In her welcoming remarks, Asa Torkelsson, UNFPA country representative for Malaysia, highlighted the grim reality still faced by millions of women and girls today: “Violence against women and girls sadly remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations that continues to happen.

“According to the United Nations, globally, 736 million women — that is almost one in three — have been subjected to physical or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lifetime.”

Furthermore, Torkelsson pointed out that two-thirds of occurrences of violence against women still go unreported.

While acknowledging the strides that Malaysia has made so far to address social, legislative and enforcement gaps in the battle against gender based violence, Torkelsson highlighted the country’s regional successes including being the first Asian country to introduce a specific law on domestic violence (the Domestic Violence Act 1994), and being a pioneer in developing the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSSC), a trailblazing initiative to support victims of gender-based violence.

However, she said efforts must be ongoing and extend beyond the 16 Days of Activism.

“We must integrate the principles of equality and respect into our daily lives, workplaces, educational institutions, and communities.

“This would also be vital to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.

“Ending gender-based violence requires more investment in women and girls. It requires improved legislation and its implementation, more services for survivors, pushing for robust legal frameworks and empowering women and girls to stand tall as agents of change,” she said.

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