Today is Valentine’s Day. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will certainly be filled with posts of people expressing love – photographs of roses, online valentine greetings, couples and singles celebrating the day of romance.
So on Valentine’s Day, we at Women’s Aid Organisation, would like to pay tribute to the women who, if alive today, would want to wish their loved ones Happy Valentine’s Day. They would if they could, but sadly it is impossible as they have fallen victim to domestic violence homicide. Their lives were taken by the very people who they shared wedding vows and promised to love.
So let’s take a minute today to remember those whose life ended because of domestic violence. Just a few days ago, we read of yet another domestic violence homicide whereby a 37-year old woman died in Johor Bahru after she was believed to have been slashed on the neck by her husband after an argument. In January, it was reported that a man in Batu Caves brutally cut his wife’s face with a pocket knife after she defied his order not to visit her mother. Another enraged husband attacked and injured his 25-year old wife with a samurai sword, also for wanting to return to her mother’s home. Last year, at least three domestic violence homicide cases were reported in the media, and undoubtedly more were not reported.
It is fear not love that survivors of domestic violence experience every day. And the most tragic manifestation of domestic violence is murder by an intimate partner. When domestic violence ends in death, it represents the failure of the community to recognise the severity and potential lethality of violence against women.
But domestic violence homicide is predictable and preventable. While we have no available statistics in Malaysia, in the United States almost one-third of female homicide victims reported are killed by an intimate partner. What’s more striking is that there are always warning signs. In 70-80% of intimate partner homicides, the man physically abused the woman before the murder. This is the same in the few cases WAO has handled in Malaysia. We must know the prevalence of domestic violence homicide in Malaysia, and we urge the government to make available such statistics immediately.
We must ask ourselves: did we recognise the warning signs? What actions were taken after the police reports were lodged? What protection was given to the women? Have we done enough to prevent these tragic endings? It is simple – increase legal protection services and homicides will decrease.
This day is more than just Valentine’s Day, but V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. It’s only apt that when people around the world celebrate love, we must also recognise those who fall victim to control and inequality in the name of love. Happy Valentine’s Day.
By Sally Wangsawijaya, Advocacy Officer, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)