Amid debates over progressive amendments to existing Malaysian laws on domestic violence, Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh, member of parliament of the ruling coalition, announced that wives emotionally abuse their husbands by denying them sex.
"Usually, it involves wives cursing their husbands: this is emotional abuse," he continued. "They insult their husbands and refuse his sexual needs. All these are types of psychological and emotional abuse."
The lawmaker, a member of the right wing Barisan Nasional party, which currently dominates Malaysian politics, also touched on the practice of polygamy, which is legal in the Muslim-majority nation. He qualified a woman preventing her husband from taking another wife as abuse as well.
While activists hoped that the talks of amending domestic violence legislation would ensure further protections for those suffering abuse, Che's comments reveal a frighteningly regressive line of thinking in parliament. Another member of the BN made a remark along similar misogynistic lines in April, stating that it could be potentially beneficial for the rape victim to marry her rapist.
"Perhaps through marriage they [the rape victim and rapist] can lead a healthier, better life. And the person who was raped will not necessarily have a bleak future," he said while debating a proposed amendment banning child marriages in Malaysia. "She will have a husband at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems."
He also stated that some girls as young as nine were "physically and spiritually" ready for marriage.
While the majority of parliament voted against the ban, the backlash to Che's comments has been satisfyingly swift and revealed that the push for female autonomy remains strong in the nation.
"This is an old notion, that when you marry a women you own her body. It does not work that way," Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, reportedly told the AFP. "Women have a right to say no to sex. It is ridiculous to say men are abused if women say no."
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Olivia Harris