Recently a Malaysian MP said that women denying sex from to their husbands was abuse. It is no secret that Malaysia has become increasingly more extreme in its pursuit of Islam over the past few years. This is just the latest in absurd and alarming statements from Malaysia’s politicians. This follows after another MP from the leading Barisan Nasional coalition stated that it was ok for rapists to marry their victims and in fact encouraged it. Such statements are increasingly the norm alongside alarming government actions, leaving Malaysia in a sorry state.
Mr Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh, the MP in question, stated that denying sex was “psychological and emotional abuse” while talking at a domestic violence in parliament in regards to a bill providing protection for victims. He also stated that denying a Muslim man the chance to marry a second wife was abuse. These comments have drawn nationwide outrage with Marina Mahathir, the former Malaysian Prime Minister’s daughter and women’s rights activist, stating that“it is ridiculous to say men are abused if women say no (to sex)” since men don’t own women’s bodies.
In the past few years government has continuously used more extreme religious stances to turn attention away from their corruption scandals. The consequences are damning. In the name of religion, rights have been taken away and severe sexism is allowed. Building on an already discriminatory foundation, politicians are now openly treading on women and children’s rights. This may not come as a surprise given Malaysia’s record of allowing child marriage, polygamy, and heavy legal repercussions of Muslims who defy Sharia religious rulings. Human rights are being eroded at an alarming rate as the government is bringing more and more extreme Islamic practices, such as stoning, to parliament for deliberation.
As The Economist ascertains, the Prime Minister and his government have pursued an increasingly aggressive Islamic stance to steer attention away from their catastrophic corruption scandal. Prime Minister (PM) Najib Razak, was trialled for embezzling $681 million from a state investment firm in 2015. He has claimed these funds were a personal donation from the Saudi Royal family which he states he has since returned. International investigators have made swift progress on the case, with America set to seize $1.5b worth of goods bought with the money taken from the firm and Switzerland and Singapore also making progress. Meanwhile, despite calls for the PM to quit he has retained his post by dismissing the former Attorney General (who was working on the corruption case) and the deputy PM. In this climate, The Economist reports that the party is trying to retain support from the majority Malay vote by reinforcing pro-Malay policies and working with the Islamist Opposition party, which is becoming more extreme.
The tactical political game the government is playing is not right. International governments must pressure Malaysia to stop eroding rights and start protecting them. As the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s economic allies must help persuade the government to change course. If they refuse, appropriate sanctions and restrictions must be made. The sexist and discriminatory views of the politicians cannot be changed. Therefore, the rural communities and Malay majority who support the government regardless of their actions must be educated about how government actions are damaging to themselves. Unfortunately, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has held power for the last 60 years both through devious politics and the support of the Malay majority who are privileged by legislation. For any real change to occur, Malays must push out the ruling party in the next election and support a less destructive and less corrupt alternative. While support for the opposition has been growing, we must await the 2018 election to see if Malaysia will deviate from its current path.