‘A wife’s body is her own’

Marina-Mahathir_zulkifly_600

PETALING JAYA: Social activist Marina Mahathir has denounced Setiu MP Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh for condemning women who repel sexual advances from their husbands.

“A man does not own a woman’s body when he marries her any more than she owns his,” she said in a comment on a recent speech Zulkifly made in the Dewan Rakyat.

During a debate on domestic violence on Tuesday, Zulkifly said women who denied their husbands sex were subjecting them to psychological and emotional abuse.

Speaking to FMT, Marina said the MP was proving that marital rape was a problem in Malaysia.

She said marriage did not take away a person’s right to decide what’s best for herself or himself.

“Every human has agency, which means they have a right to think for themselves and do what they think is best for themselves. This includes the right to their own bodily integrity.

“To accuse a woman, who is usually the victim of abuse, of abusing her husband by denying him sex is a bit rich. She did not give up her agency or her bodily integrity when she married him.”

She questioned whether Zulkifly was in fact saying men were “totally ruled by their private parts”.

“With this kind of mindset among our so-called leaders, I fear for our entire country,” she said.

“It astounds me that men are so shamelessly displaying their weaknesses and at the same time demanding that they, and only they, should be leaders.

“If a man can be brought to his knees by a woman by simply denying him sex, then imagine how many countries we can ruin.”

She said both the Quran and Prophet Muhammad called for kindness towards women.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said Zulkifly appeared to be trying to justify marital rape.

“We must continue to call out and challenge these sexist perceptions to uphold decency, equality and respect for women’s rights in public discourse,” she said.

A spokesperson for Sisters in Islam (SIS) said her organisation was appalled by the “chauvinistic” statement.

“The injury and harm experienced by domestic violence survivors should never be trivialised in this manner,” she said.

She added that conjugal rights should be “exercised with love and respect towards one another.”