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Press Statement – “These Women Deserve Their Husbands”

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) refers to the news report “These women deserve their husbands” (The Sun, 8 April 2002). WAO strongly opposes the claim by Tan Sri Mahadevan that women chose to stay in an abusive relationship because they deserve each other, or because they exist in a sado-masochistic relationship. It is absurd to claim that women are willing to be hurt over and over again in an abusive relationship simply because she is a masochist. This displays a serious lack of understanding on the dynamics of domestic violence and it is both frightening and dangerous when myths like this continue to be perpetuated by professionals in their capacity as experts on mental health.

Such statements can have grave and far-reaching effects of endorsing wife battering as legitimate in certain types of relationships. Domestic violence is a crime. It needs to be stressed that no one, for whatever reason, deserves to be battered.

Domestic violence occurs because of the offender (usually the men) chooses to use violence to attain power and control over their partners. This is the single factor underlying all cases of domestic violence, as in the three cases reported in the news report. This usage of violence is then apparently sanctioned because of the inequality that exists between men and women in society and in the family. Even if the women is economically equal or superior to her partner, she is still expected to place her husband’s needs as the centre of her life and she to fulfill her traditional stereotyped gender roles. This is also known as the ‘good woman’ ideology, in which women have been instructed and socialised to be docile and to accept male aggression and violence. They are socialised to feel ashamed and guilty about failing to fulfill their traditional duties as an obedient wife and a mother, as well as about ‘breaking up the family unit’. This ideology can trap a woman to stay in an abusive relationship even though they have the monetary ability to walk away. Couple this with the years of psychological abuse and the numbing fear of escalating violence, how can a woman leave?

Therefore, it is all the more important that the public are informed accurately and in more depth on the issue of domestic violence to eliminate this form of violence. Everyone needs to state their non-tolerance on violence being used as a tool to control, and to provide support to victims to enable them to leave when the violence happens.

Jaclyn Kee
Communications Officer
Women’s Aid Organisation

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