Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Malaysia: Recourse available to women who are victims of sexual or physical abuse (January 2003 - August 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 22 August 2005
Citation / Document Symbol MYS100433.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Malaysia: Recourse available to women who are victims of sexual or physical abuse (January 2003 - August 2005), 22 August 2005, MYS100433.E, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Non-Domestic Sexual Violence

Several sources reported an increase in the incidence of rape in Malaysia in recent years (AP 20 Jan. 2004; SCMP 21 Jan. 2004; AFP 1 Feb. 2004). According to sources, there were 1,210 reported rape cases in 2000 but by 2002 this figure had risen to 1,418 (ibid.; AP 20 Jan. 2004; SCMP 21 Jan. 2004), with roughly two-thirds of the victims under the age of 16 (ibid.; AFP 1 Feb. 2004).

According to Country Reports 2004, victims of rape and domestic violence may file a complaint in government hospital crisis centres rather than going directly to the police (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Incidents of rape are highly publicized in Malaysian media (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). For instance, there have been several reports of child rape cases, including the separate rape and murder of two schoolgirls in Johor State (The Star 31 July 2005; AFP 22 Jan. 2004; SCMP 21 Jan. 2004) and Sabah State (ibid.; AFP 22 Jan. 2004; AP 20 Jan. 2004). Regarding the first case, a newspaper article appearing in The Star asked those with information to call the police (31 July 2005). Men were arrested in connection with both murder rapes (AFP 22 Jan. 2004; ibid. 1 Feb. 2004; AP 20 Jan. 2004; SCMP 21 Jan. 2004).

According to AFP, the Malaysian government was considering the option of publicly whipping child rapists, in response to growing anger over rape in Malaysia (22 Jan. 2004). Malaysia's cabinet has reportedly approved the death penalty for those found guilty of murder rape, and life imprisonment and possibly public whipping for those who are child rapists (AFP 1 Feb. 2004), although this information could not be corroborated by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. As at January 2004, the penalty for rape was whipping and a 20-year maximum jail sentence, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) (21 Jan. 2004).

On 3 August 2004, AP reported that police were investigating allegations of "rampant sexual abuse" at a mental health facility. The outcome of this investigation could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Amnesty International (AI) reported that refusal by Malaysian police refused to allow a non-governmental organization (NGO) called All Women's Action Society to stage a protest against the increased incidence of rape, leading the local NGO to complain to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (AI 2004).

Domestic Violence

Malaysia has enacted the Domestic Violence Act (1994) (Malaysia 1994; The Daily Star 7 Jan. 2005), has ratified the United Nations (UN) Women's Convention (with some reservations) but as of 2005 had not yet signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Women's Convention (AI 2005). Please see the attachment for a copy of the Domestic Violence Act of Malaysia 1995. Moreover, according to Country Reports 2004, the Domestic Violence Act addresses only violence perpetrated against women in the home, a restriction which women's groups believe makes the act inadequate (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2004 also cited the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) as stating in June 2004 that legal protection was hindered due to a lack of cooperation between police, the social welfare department, and the judiciary (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Several sources have noted a rise in the number of domestic violence cases in Malaysia (Malaysian Bernama 2 Aug. 2005) and have stated that violence against women is a problem in Malaysia (Freedom House 2005; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). On the other hand, statistics of domestic violence cases released by the Royal Malaysian Police show that there were 3,468 reported cases of domestic violence in 2000, 3,107 in 2001, 2,755 in 2002, 2,555 in 2003, and 1,207 in the first five months of 2004 (WCC n.d.a). For further details on the yearly number of reports of domestic violence by state, ethnicity, or age, please consult the Website of the Women's Centre for Change: (WCC n.d.a).

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia has reportedly complained that there is a shortage of "adequate, well-funded and safe shelter homes for victims of domestic violence in [the states of] Sabah and Sarawak" (Malaysian Bernama 2 Aug. 2005). Citing activist organizations, Country Reports 2004 indicated that the support network for victims of domestic violence was deemed inadequate, and that police required additional training to handle cases of violence against women, despite recent improvements in this area (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Citing the WAO, AFP claims that of the 700 cases of domestic violence that it addresses annually, a tenth complain of spousal rape, although many more cases apparently go unreported (23 Aug. 2004). According to Malaysian law, spousal rape is not a criminal offence, and despite the fact that a man who rapes his wife could in theory be charged with assault, Country Reports 2004 claimed that as at the end of 2004 no man had been convicted under this clause (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (AFP 23 Aug. 2004; BBC 23 Aug. 2004) and the Joint Action Group Against Violence Against Women (AFP 27 Aug. 2004) have called on the government to criminalize marital rape (ibid.; ibid. 23 Aug. 2004), a position that has met with opposition from some of the country's leading Muslim clerics (AFP 23 Aug. 2004; ibid. 27 Aug. 2004; BBC 23 Aug. 2004). The mufti of Perak state, Harussani Zakaria, feels that making marital rape a crime is against Islam (ibid.; AFP 23 Aug. 2004), and publicly stated that "'[a] husband has the right to be intimate with his wife and the wife must obey'" (AFP 27 Aug. 2004; BBC 23 Aug. 2004). Some Islamic lawyers supported the mufti's view, claiming "a woman may only refuse her husband sex if he has a sexually transmitted disease" (ibid.). This, in turn, led to the outrage of women's groups (ibid.).

In its 2005 report, Amnesty International (AI) stated that adult and child female migrant workers in Malaysia suffered from "inadequate protection" from the government, an assessment corroborated by Human Rights Watch (HRW 13 Jan. 2005). Labour agencies often fail to inform domestic workers of their rights, or "prevent [them] from reporting abuses or seeking redress through the ... justice system, "and there is insufficient government monitoring of their workplaces (ibid.). Many Indonesian women and girls who work as domestics in Malaysia must reportedly "confront physical, verbal, and sexual abuse from employers and labor agents," including reported incidents of rape (HRW 22 July 2004; see also HRW 13 Jan. 2005).


The WAO of Malaysia provides services for women, including refuge, in-person and telephone counselling, and child care services for its clients (WAO n.d.). The Women's Centre for Change (WCC), formerly called the Women's Crisis Centre, provides services similar to those of the WAO, including counselling, shelter, legal advice and hospital, police, and court referrals, with annual operating costs running at roughly RM 250,000 [or approximately CAN$80,000 ( 17 Aug. 2005] (WCC n.d.b).

For the contact information of a number of Malaysian women's groups, please consult the Women's Centre for Change Website at (WCC n.d.c). For a list of government agencies and non-governmental organizations that can help women victims of violence, please consult the Women's Centre for Change Website at (WCC n.d.d).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 27 August 2004. Bronwen Roberts. "A Small Step on Marital Rape, but Asia Remains Divided." (Dialog)
_____. 23 August 2004. "Row Erupts in Malaysia over Marital Rape." (Dialog)
_____. 1 February 2004. "Malaysian Child-Rape Suspect Re-arrested: Report." (Dialog)
_____. 22 January 2004. "Malaysian PM Orders Discipline Review After Police Trainees Accused of Rape." (Dialog)

Amnesty International (AI). 2005. "Malaysia." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]
_____. 2004. "Malaysia." Amnesty International Report 2004. [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]

Associated Press (AP). 3 August 2004. "Report: Malaysian Police Investigate Sex-Abuse Allegations at Mental Facility." (Dialog)
_____. 20 January 2004. Jasbant Singh. "Rape, Killing of 10-Year-Old Girl Triggers Outrage, Soul-Searching in Malaysia." (Dialog)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 23 August 2004. Jonathan Kent. "Malaysian Rape Law Provokes Storm." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]

The Daily Star [Dhaka]. 7 January 2005. Vol. 5, Num. 223. Mahbuba Zannat. "Domestic Violence Prevention Act a Must to Protect Women." [Accessed 6 Jan. 2005]

Freedom House. 2005. "Malaysia." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 13 January 2005. "Malaysia." World Report 2005. [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]
_____. 22 July 2004. "Indonesia/Malaysia: Household Workers' Rights Trampled Employers and Labor Agencies Exploit and Abuse Women Workers."

Malaysia. 1994. The Domestic Violence Act of Malaysia, 1994. Women's Centre for Change Website. [Accessed 18 Aug. 2005]

Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama). 2 August 2005. "Need More to Promote Women's Human Rights in Sabah and Sarawak." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]

South China Morning Post (SCMP) [Hong Kong]. 21 January 2004. Baradan Kuppusamy. "Tougher Penalties Fail to Curb Rape Cases in Malaysia. Most Incidents Go Unpunished Because Victims Are Threatened." (Dialog)

The Star [Petaling Jaya]. 31 July 2005. "Police Still Tracking Down Rape Case Suspects." [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO). N.d. "WAO Services." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2005]

Women's Centre for Change (WCC). N.d.a. "Statistics of Domestic Violence Cases in Malaysia." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]
_____. N.d.b. "About Women's Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]
_____. N.d.c. "Malaysian Women's Groups." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]
_____. N.d.d. "Malaysian Government Agencies & Non-Government Organisations." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005] 17 August 2005. "Universal Currency Converter." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]


Malaysia. 1994. The Domestic Violence Act of Malaysia. (pp. 305-312) [Accessed 17 Aug. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

The Inchon Women's Hot Line, the National Council of Women's Organisations, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS), and the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) did not respond to requests for information within time constraints.

Internet Sites, including: The Economist [London]; European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI); Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia; New Straits Times [Kuala Lampur]; World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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