KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Women and Family Development Ministry’s posters with guidelines on household happiness during coronavirus isolation have enraged human rights groups, who say such narratives strengthen stereotypes that lead to domestic violence.
The posters, shared by the ministry on social media on Monday, provided guidance on “building a happy family.” Women are advised to wear makeup at home and “speak with a Doraemon voice” while addressing their husbands.
Doraemon is a character in a popular Japanese cartoon series, who in its Malaysian version speaks with a characteristic high-pitched female voice.
One of the posters shows a picture of a husband and wife hanging clothes. It reads: “If you see your spouse doing something in a way you don’t like, don’t nag at him — use humorous words like ‘this is the way to hang clothes, darling’ (using Doraemon’s voice tone and giggling).”
Another poster advised women to wear makeup and dress neatly when they were working from home.
Rosana Isa, executive director of civil society organization Sisters in Islam, told Arab News the posters were inappropriate — creating the impression that wives must please their husbands and abide by certain rules to maintain household happiness.
“It reinforces negative gender stereotypes against women and men, as it implies that women are the only ones responsible for house chores whereas the burden of housework should be shared by both husband and wife,” Isa said.
She added that the message from the ministry supported the notion of women having to resort to “infantile language and mannerisms.”
As Malaysia has been on partial lockdown since March 18 to contain the further spread of coronavirus, women’s organizations have expressed concerns that domestic violence may rise during the period. Isa said the government should focus more on promoting hotlines and providing shelter for women in abusive relationships rather than harmful stereotypes.
“These stereotypes are the root of gender inequality and will lead to discrimination and violence against women,” she said.
The ministry was slammed by various women’s and rights groups, with the word “Doraemon” becoming a trending topic on Malaysian Twitter following the backlash.
Women’s Aid Organization, a group that helps domestic abuse victims, said in a Twitter post: “Women should never have to act like Doraemon or childlike to be taken seriously. And even if they want to laugh coyly like Doraemon, it’s their own decision.”
The ministry has removed the posters from its social media accounts and on Monday evening issued a statement apologizing for the “tips” if certain groups found them inappropriate. “We will be more careful in the future,” it said.