By Mariam Mokhtar
The teenager, S. Durga Devi, was only seventeen when she died, at the hands of her violent 27-year-old boyfriend.
Her lifeless body was found on the floor of her living room, when the police were summoned to investigate, at 7.30am, by a neighbour. Her face had been badly battered, as a result of being punched. The house at Simpang Pulai, had belonged to her in-laws and she had only been married for one year. They had no children.
According to the papers, her neighbours told police, that the couple had been having heated arguments throughout the night. The Ipoh police chief (IPC) Sum Chang Keong said that one neighbour called the police and told them that he had heard loud arguments between midnight and 5am.
Why didn’t her neighbours alert the police earlier? If the newspaper report is correct, then the argument had been going on for five hours. If only they had contacted police soon after midnight, or at 5am, when the noise stopped. Perhaps, Devi may have been saved.
The IPC said that the argument was a domestic dispute and that Devi’s body had been sent to the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital, for a post mortem. He confirmed that traces of blood found near the scene had been sent for forensic examination, but no weapons had been seized.
Was Devi’s husband so violent, that the neighbours feared he would turn on them, if they were to intervene? Was this the couple’s first violent fight or had there been others before? Had the police been summoned to the house in the past?
Devi was killed ten days before the International Women’s Day. Is the nation doing enough to tackle violence in the home, as too many women are dying at the hands of their husbands?
Is enough support made available, and are there sufficient centres of refuge, for women, and their children, who are victims of domestic violence? Is the government able to stem the high rate of domestic violence? Is the government able to help create jobs for women, and make them more independent?
Are there enough people to support these women and counsel them? Do the women have access to funds, to support them, in times of emergency, especially if many victims had to leave home? Have they access to legal aid, if they had to fight their husbands in the law courts?
Many women who gave up their careers, to bring up a family whilst the husband concentrated on his career, may be turfed-out of the family home, after a marital dispute. For some, especially those who did not complete their education, life is extremely difficult, because without skills, they are not easily employable.
If there are children, do the mothers have access to cheap or free child care, whilst they try to rebuild their lives? Not many people wish to return to their parents home. On the other hand, their families may not be as accommodating as they would like them to be. The families could be located in a village, but for easy access to jobs, these women would prefer to remain in a city.
Some women claim that their mothers, try to persuade them to return to their husbands, and reconcile their differences with him. Others claim that a marital dispute would bring shame on the family.
Why do some Malaysian men find it hard to respect women’s rights? Some of them believe that it is their right, as husbands or boyfriends to treat their women as children, or as their private property.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the police have become more receptive to the needs of women suffering from domestic violence, there is still a long way to go towards creating greater awareness.
In Ipoh there is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to the care of abused women and children. It is known as the Perak Women for Women Society (PWW). Formed in 2003, the society is located at No. 52 Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Ipoh, and can be reached at 05 546 9715. The NGO not only counsels troubled women but manages a half-way house for their care too.