Wife beating on rise, surveys show

Ian Stewart

HOSPITAL records and surveys show wife beating in Malaysia is increasing and the injuries involved are becoming more serious.

The situation may be worse than the evidence suggests. Although it is estimated that nearly two million women are beaten annually by husbands or male friends, only about 0.09 per cent of victims make a police complaint.

To make matters worse, among the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia, only Malay and Indian women were prepared to talk to research teams from the Women's Aid Organisation.

'We had difficulty getting Chinese samples,' Dr Rohany Nasir, an associate professor with the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's psychology department, said at a seminar to discuss the surveys.

'The Chinese Assembly Hall said it knew of battered Chinese wives but they just did not want to talk about their problem openly.' The survey, which involved interviews with 60 battered wives aged 17 to 78, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and police, found that objects used to assault women included bamboo poles, iron pipes, knives or sharp instruments, brooms and chairs.

Eighty per cent of the battered women had left their husbands at least once.


Dr Abu Hassan Asaari, head of the emergency medical and trauma department of Kuala Lumpur Hospital, said the hospital's centre for battered women had been seeing an increasing number of cases.

He said there were 35 cases a month in 1993, 40 to 45 last year and an average of 60 cases in 1995.

'The injuries are getting more serious and include fractures and traumatic and recurring abortions,' he said.

The seminar was told that only 6.2 per cent of cases reported to police were assessed to be criminal cases.


Some participants complained of a lack of action or understanding by police in cases of domestic violence. However, a Women's Aid Organisation representative said the police were sensitive to the issue.

Women at the seminar expressed concern over the finding of a study by Survey Research Malaysia that 15 per cent of adult Malaysians believed physical abuse of women was acceptable.


Women's groups are hoping the Domestic Violence Act, passed by Parliament last year, will be implemented soon and provide an effective avenue of legal action for battered wives.