Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stepping out of men's shadows by Carolyn Khor

Link to MSN

Domestic violence is not the norm

 Domestic violence (© slkoceva, Getty Images)

Domestic violence, rape and unwanted pregnancies are problems that are synonymous with less fortunate women who are often left in a lurch with a series of problems that follow. The predicaments these women find themselves in are less likely to be publicly acknowledged due to the conservative attitude of the society towards such occurrences. 

While it is widely agreed that women are the victims of such incidences, nonetheless cases like these are often swept under the carpet or settled between two disputing parties to save the hassle of going through court proceedings to seek compensation or justice.

The instance of the recently divorced 13 year old girl in Kulim who married her rapist highlights the severity of how families are willing to compromise their daughter’s wellbeing in order to save face. Both families of the adolescences conceded to allow their teenage children enter a contract of marriage even though both may not have been ready or prepared for the responsibilities of starting a family. Both families had thought that through marriage the family honour may remain intact and the stigma that comes along as being a victim and rapist could just be eventually forgotten. This shows that conservative families still opine that the happiness of the teenagers comes secondary to any face-saving measures that may keep gossip-mongers at bay.

The promotion of abstinence and rigid religious outlook form the basis of such bias atrocities towards women.

Men on the other hand, escape criticism, penalties and deterrent actions.

Consent to marriage for minors involved in rape should only be precipitated if sufficient care and understanding towards the marriage institution are taken into consideration. This swift and candid solution towards the victims cannot be taken as an absolute response to resolve the matter.

The heavy burden placed on the child in premature marriages interferes with the child’s opportunity to education and better work opportunities. An early bride is expected to carry out the responsibilities of a wife which includes child-bearing.  As and when the child bride is left to fend for herself, she will be unable to do so and this creates additional stress and problems to the community.

Domestic violence is inevitably associated with the lack of support and awareness that violence is not an acceptable form of communication. Domestic violence happens in households of varying lengths and ages although younger women and very young women might find it doubly challenging to verbalise or respond adequately towards it. Women who fall in this category are often made to feel shameful of themselves and are belittled for voicing out, as domestic problems are still largely considered a personal problem and not something to complain about.

Perpetrators of domestic violence dictate the situation with emotional and mental manipulation and blackmail. The aggressor blames the victim for provoking him and uses contemporary examples of how other women submit and accept such incidences. Families of these aggressors normally take the side of the aggressor while families of the victim can only advise the victim to tolerate even more to avoid divorce or a break-up in the marriage, many times for the sake of the children.

Although the society does not wish for more single parents, smug attitudes towards single parents and divorcees should not form basis as hindrance for women to choose to lead a healthier and less conflicted life - whether both parties part amicably instead of continually suffer in a high-tension situation daily or face the consequences of being in a lopsided contract. Children involved in such conflicts are also the victims and will stand to gain if they were shielded from the devastating dilemma.

Instead of feeling helpless, women should stand firm in their conviction whether to allow the society’s opinion affect their decision to stay or leave a bad relationship, or to make changes to halt the assaults. The obstacles that women face daily are marked with expectations and limitations. However, no matter what the decision, it should be a beneficial choice with room for personal growth and with provision to provide a healthy ground for their children’s growth.

** Article published in MSN Malaysia

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