In the medical community, there seems to be a growing recognition that violence against women has a substantial effect on the physical, reproductive, and mental health of women around the world (Colombini, 2012). Reframing violence against women and the trauma it causes as health issues challenges our western beliefs that health is something that lies solely in the physical makeup of the body and is the responsibility of an individual. Violence against women is an issue that requires analyzing the biological, social, and cultural interconnections that affects women lives. This is something that is often overlooked when practicing in a bio medicine dominant health system. (Joralemon, 2017). This post will focus on the experiences of violence as part of the bodies and health of Malaysian women.
It wasn’t until 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged violence and violence against women as a serious public health issue and social issue. Currently there is a lack of studies regarding violence against women in Malaysia. One of the first large studies, though it had its own limitations, found that 36% of married and unmarried couples experience intimate partner violence (Shuib, 2013). Others studies using self reported numbers found around 8% of women to have experienced intimate partner violence. The most common type of violence being emotional abuse. Asia Pacific Family Medicine conducted a small study in the healthcare system. This study’s focus was on how practitioners knowledge and attitude towards related to the identification and management of domestic violence (Shuib, 2013). This study found that most of the health care professionals were not knowledgeable when it came to how to properly respond to the women that came in telling their experiences with violence. There appears to be a lack of training on issues that involve domestic violence. This issue might have risen from an older cultural idea that intimate partner violence was something that was a private affair, and not something meant to be in the public eye.
However, some groups are now taking steps to ensure that victims of all kinds of violence receive the health care that they require. In 1994 the first One-Stop Crisis Center was created in Malaysia. These centers provided an integrated health sector model that provides comprehensive care to women and children who experience physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. This comprehensive care may include medical care, counseling, police aid, and social support. Only two years later, the Ministry of Health established OSCC centers in all state run hospitals. This model has since been picked up by many several countries in south east Asia (Colombini, 2012). This sort of care system and attitude towards violence as a social and health issue facing women differs from some biomedical systems around the world.
Bio medicine as a whole is generally concerned with treating the individual. This is good for emergency medicine and life saving procedures, but generally the individual patients are responsible for their own health. Healing issues that have multiple factors, like inter-generational violence for example, may be a weakness for bio medicine. While a biomedical professional can focus on the bodies biomedical reaction to physical trauma, the political, social, and environmental factors that influence that trauma or other kinds of trauma may be ignored. Bio medicine might not allow for asking big questions at the level of the population like how can we get rid of this problem? Posing violence against women as a health issue challenges all of these facets of bio medicine. Does this mean violence against women should not be considered a health issue? Of course not. However, this does shine a light on a gap in the biomedical system that could be filled by incorporating some of the ideal of other medical systems. Utilizing a critical anthropological perspective may open the doors to better understanding the whole picture in regard to violence and trauma. This perspective could give medical professionals insight into why domestic violence is something that occurs more often intergenerationally. Bio medicine looks for biochemical answers to questions regarding health, but there are so many factors that make up a person’s health that is outside the realm of only the well being of the physical body. Bio medicine to benefit from a more holistic approach to addressing violence against women.
Colombini, Manuela, Susannah H Mayhew, Siti Hawa Ali, Rashidah Shuib, and Charlotte Watts
An Integrated Health Sector Response to Violence against Women in Malaysia: Lessons for Supporting Scale Up. BMC Public Health 12(1)
Joralemon, Donald, and Donald Joralemon
Recognizing Biological, Social, and Cultural Interconnections. Essay. In Exploring Medical Anthropology Pp. 30–43. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group
Shuib, Rashidah, Noraida Endut, Siti Hawa Ali, et al.
Domestic Violence and Womens Well-Being in Malaysia: Issues and Challenges Conducting a National Study Using the WHO Multi-Country Questionnaire on Womens Health and Domestic Violence Against Women. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 91: 475–488