16x16: Malaysia

3 August 2010

By ezthetic & sonia randhawa

In 16 slides x 16 seconds, Take Back The Tech! presentation narrates the story of how violence against women and ICTs links together in Malaysia. The presentation builds on the paper Malaysia: Violence against Women and Information Communication that , provides a snapshot and baseline on the law and policy in these two areas. The paper is part of the APC WNSP project 'MDG3: Take Back the Tech! to end violence against women' that connects ICTs, VAW and Millennium Development Goal Three (MDG3) in practice, policy and law in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The 16x16 idea follows the Pecha-Kucha presentation format which is 20 x 20 - we've adapted it to 16 for the 16 days of activism against gender violence.[1]

Transcript of the audio narrative:

1. Peninsular Malaysia lies directly on trade routes, modern and traditional, between China and India, once a melting pot of ideas, ethnicities, religions, cuisines and languages. Colonisation by the British brought with it a rigidity of thinking, a new strait-laced attitude towards gender, sexuality and religion.

2. Women have been at the forefront of the changes this new positioning of Malaysia and its thoughts. Their dress, their sexuality, their beliefs and their behaviour are coming under increasing surveillance and censorship, in the guise of religion, in the guise of protection against the evils of 'Westernisation'.

3. The internet world is fraught with both opportunities and challenges, but as the policy landscape is being developed, the lens through which this world is seen is primarily male. When politicians and policy-makers talk of a digital divide, they see it geographically, replicating the race-based divides that form the basis of the political system.

4. But Malaysia's media landscape is controlled, forced into an unnatural shape by repressive legislation and tight ownership controls. While the media has played an important role in some women's rights campaigns, the reliance on sexualised advertising and on sensationalised sex-and-violence reporting, diverts attention from the real issues of women's equality and lack of respect for human rights.

5. Protecting women and children from 'inappropriate' content and material, particularly pornography, has been one of the key stated drives behind internet control. The regulator starts off looking at illegal equipment, then in 2007 started prosecuting 'obscene messages', then in 2009, started prosecuting political content. The drive to stop people from baring all....

6. The media is owned by the political elite – all the major partners in the coalition government own sizable slices of the print and broadcast media. Yet, ministers complain about sensationalised reporting and media bias, and want further regulation of the media that they own.

7. It's a city, a country that was built through migrant labour. With around 10 percent of the population being 'temporary' workers, crime, 'social ills' and violence are often blamed on this itinerant workforce – unseen behind the glossy exterior of the magazines and skyscrapers are the appalling conditions, the sexual slavery, the low pay that male and female migrants are forced to endure.

8. But Malaysian women are sharply in focus when it comes to elections. One of the key supports for the coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence, the Government has set up policies and action plans to help eradicate violence against women. But their commitment to policies is strongest when they fear electoral defeat – in years when they've held strongly onto power, women and their concerns fade behind 'real' issues of the economy and national security.

9. Violence against women is comprehensible to the Government plans, only through its economic impacts. It is seen as a problem when it has an ability to affect women's participation in the workforce, such as through sexual harassment. Policy on dealing with violence is through enabling women to earn more money.

10. And violence is often caused by women. Rape: Women, value yourselves – women are to blame, by wearing provocative clothing, by staying out too late, or infamously, by wearing perfume. Women are advised to stay indoors, while a veil is drawn over issues of incest and marital violence.

11. And surrounding all these is the mysterious death of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu. You can be arrested just for shouting her name.

12. But women are not passive players in these changes, these contests. Women's groups have been active in drafting and passing Malaysia's Domestic Violence Act, they are challenging both the technologies and the ideologies – religious, secular or both – that are behind violence against women.

13. When private images of a State Assemblywoman were distributed, women on all sides of the political divide closed rank, and serious discussion began on the right to privacy and possible conflicts with freedom of expression.

14. When a Muslim mother of two was 'caught' drinking beer in public, and the authorities tried to make an example of her, she dared them to carry out her sentence – whipping – in public. In a highly publicised confrontation, the authorities backed down.

15. Individual victories are not enough. There needs to be a thorough rethinking of how ICTs are used to humiliate and perpetrate acts of violence, and how they can be used to break down barriers of gender and misogyny – a rights-based framework to end violence against women.

16. Mobilising – for example through social networking sites – to take control of our own destinies, whether we are male, female, or refusing to be categorised by the gender binary, all of us can work towards a future where we can love who we choose, how we choose, free from state or personal violence.

17. Take Back the Tech! It's about taking control of our lives, about living a life free from violence, free from fear.

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