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Outrage As Malaysian Government Tells Women Not To Nag Husbands During Lockdown

A woman walks past a closed shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. | Image: MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images

The government of Malaysia has apologised after a campaign urging women to keep their husbands happy during the coronavirus lockdown sparked outrage on social media.

“We apologize if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenpreventCOVID19, Malaysia’s Women’s Affairs Ministry urged women to dress up and wear makeup at home and avoid nagging their husbands to keep peace throughout the lockdown.

Wives were also told to avoid nagging their husbands — and to instead lighten the mood by mimicking the high-pitched voice of Doraemon, a blue anime robot cat popular across Asia.

Another poster depicts a man sitting on a sofa, telling women to refrain from being “sarcastic” if they need help with household chores.

“(It) is extremely condescending both to women and men,” Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at the advocacy group All Women’s Action Society, told Reuters. “These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy.”

The campaign quickly drew criticism online:

“Avoid wearing home clothes. Dress up as usual, put on make-up and dress neatly. OMG! This is what Rina, our Minister of Women, Family & Community Development thinks is important during the #COVID19 lockdown?”

Avoid wearing home clothes. Dress up as usual, put on make-up and dress neatly. OMG! This is what Rina, our Minister of Women, Family & Community Development thinks is important during the #COVID19 lockdown? No tips on how to deal with #DomesticViolence? Just state DV is a crime. pic.twitter.com/FfswtPBIPH

“How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” Twitter user @yinshaoloong wrote.

The Ministry apologized and stated that the suggestions were simply aimed at “maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home.”

Women’s groups around the world have warned that the lockdowns could result in a rise in domestic violence, and some governments are reaching out to women in need. The latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap index puts Malaysia at 104 out of 153 countries when it comes to women’s political empowerment and economic participation.

As of 3 April 2020, there are 3,333 confirmed cases in Malaysia, with 53 deaths reported.

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