PKR Women's chief Fuziah Salleh criticised Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun for not doing her ministerial duty to solve issues faced by domestic violence survivors.
The Kuantan MP told Malaysiakini that Rina's position gives her the ability to collaborate with other ministries to work on this important matter.
However, Fuziah (above) accused the minister of inaction and of not utilising her power and resources to improve the situation.
“It is understandable if the Minister of Health is busy. But the Women's Minister should (advocate for this issue) and work with other ministries to find solutions.
“The minister must be sensitive to the needs of important stakeholders, but Rina does not understand the issues faced by those under her care.
“There are so many things you can do when you are in power, but she is not doing it. I think the minister (Rina) should bear the responsibility.”
Shelters for survivors
Fuziah provided an example of how the Women's Ministry can collaborate with the Tourism, Arts, and Culture Ministry as well as the private sector to use hotels as shelters for survivors.
This would help domestic abuse survivors from different states to have access to shelters, she said.
According to Fuziah, there were complaints that domestic abuse centres could not function as they did before due to the pandemic.
These One-Stop Crisis Centres (OSCCs), which are located in government hospitals, reportedly disallowed victims from seeking shelter overnight due to the fear of spreading Covid-19.
The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) previously also pointed out there are a limited number of domestic violence shelters, which are mainly located in the Klang Valley.
This poses a problem for victims in other states who seek shelter due to the interstate movement restriction.
Fuziah also lamented that while government and civil society resources are focused on Covid-19 matters, issues faced by marginalised communities are being sidelined.
For instance, she said PKR's Women wing found a number of unexpected pregnancies recently as women were unable to collect contraceptive pills from hospitals.
In addition, a number of diabetes and cancer patients were unable to attend follow-up consultations as hospitals were overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases. Some patients faced a relapse or a worsening medical condition.
Fuziah represented the Pakatan Harapan women's caucus at a meeting with Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, where she proposed that Budget 2022 should be a "gender-responsive budget".
She believed this will help the women who are most impacted by the pandemic.
The meeting occurred after Pakatan Harapan signed a landmark memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar also joined the chorus of support for gender-responsive budgeting, a concept previously raised by the WAO.
She said victims of domestic violence are more vulnerable now as their usual avenues for seeking shelter are limited during lockdowns.
Therefore, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) should allocate more resources to assist them.
The PKR spokesperson on Women, Family, and Community Development matters said she highlighted these issues in a letter to the MOF.
“In my letter, I pushed MOF to embrace data transparency, the need to look at the plight of women-headed households and creating a safer socio-economic ecosystem for women to thrive.
“This includes empowering the Sexual, Women, and Child Investigation Division (D11) which plays a key role in crimes such as domestic violence and sexual exploitation of children...
“And empowering NGOs (such as Baitul Rahmah, or even WAO) who provide online/telephone psychological support to domestic violence victims and run shelter homes.”
Nurul also urged Malaysia to emulate the Australian government which she said has done well in being accountable and transparent by releasing an annual Gender Budget Statement.