PETALING JAYA: Women have had to shoulder greater responsibiliiities and an increase in unpaid care work during the movement control order period, the Women’s Aid Organisation said.
WAO said the Covid-19 pandemic has made the struggles of women starkly visible, with more and longer responsibilities to handle.
Senior research and advocacy officer Natasha Dandavati said the demands for care work during the Covid-19 crisis had increased exponentially.
“Now, with children out of school needing to be occupied, more meals to prepare at home, and the intensified care needs of older persons and ill family members, the care burden imposed on women has increased even further.
“The sad reality is that, more often than not, the women in these situations find themselves attempting to juggle everything and struggling to strike a balance, with the result being that their own physical and mental health needs are neglected,” she told FMT.
Natasha said unpaid care work was not only experienced by low-income groups as it happened across income and education levels in every community.
Women had to undertake stereotypical roles within families and relationships such as in doing domestic work and taking care of the children.
“This can also develop into physical and other forms of abuse,” she said.
WAO said a United Nations report showed that women in many households bore the bulk of chores and carried out three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men.
Khazanah Research Institute had found that Malaysian women surveyed were shouldering a “double burden”, where they spent nearly 64% more time than men on unpaid care work, despite working almost the same number of hours as men in paid employment.
Senior minister for security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said recently the government’s domestic violence hotline had received 135 calls related to domestic abuse during the MCO period.
Ismail said there could be cases where victims were scared to make complaints, and urged neighbours to help report suspected cases of domestic violence by calling the Talian Kasih hotline.
Natasha said the unpaid care burden on women in society was such an established norm that many women, although weighed down by the impact, would not necessarily think of complaining.
After the MCO is lifted, she said, the government must focus on the longer term need to recognise the changing nature of gender roles, and to see that these changes reflected both within families and communities, as well as in law and policy.
“The proposed amendments to the Employment Act and budget allocation for childcare are key steps towards this recognition,” she said.
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