by Gan Pei Ling, 13 Dec 2017 © The Malaysian Insight
FINANCIALLY independent refugee women are more resilient in the face of domestic violence, says human rights group Tenaganita executive director Glorene A. Das.
“Refugee women who are breadwinners are more respected in their communities,” Glorene told reporters after an event to commemorate the global 16 days of activism against gender-based violence at Tenaganita’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya today.
She said even community leaders in local refugee communities respected women who provide for their families.
Malaysia only allowed Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to seek legal work in Malaysia on March 1.
There are 150,204 refugees and asylum seekers from 59 countries registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia as of May 31 this year.
Burmese (133,725) make up the bulk of number, followed by refugees and asylum seekers from Pakistan (3,548), Sri Lanka (2,328), Yemen (2,095), Somalia (2,062), Syria (1,980), Iraq (1,461), Afghanistan (1,082), Palestine (698) and Iran (440).
Although Malaysia now allows Rohingya refugee women to work, cultural beliefs remain a formidable barrier towards economic independence and a life free of violence.
A study conducted by Tenaganita and University of Colorado Institute of Behavioural Science between March and May this year found all 30 Rohingya adults from a community in Gombak, Selangor, believed women should obey their husbands and need their permission to work.
More than 90% of the 15 women surveyed said they have been physically or verbally abused by their spouse.
Only 40% of the women believe it is a woman’s fate to be abused but 73% of the men believe so.
Sixty percent of the women and all the men believe there is no point in telling others about such abuses.
The findings are from the first stage of a two-year study funded by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
The remaining three stages of the study involve designing a communication campaign to empower Rohingya women in Malaysia.