A Malaysian lawmaker has come under fire for saying that women denying sex to their husbands was a form of “psychological and emotional abuse”.
Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was addressing a domestic violence debate during a parliamentary session.
Malaysia is in talks to amend existing laws against domestic violence.
The 58-year-old politician from Terengganu state said men “suffered emotional rather than physical abuse”.
“Even though men are said to be physically stronger than women, there are cases where wives hurt or abuse their husbands in an extreme manner,” he said.
“Usually, it involves wives cursing their husbands: this is emotional abuse. They insult their husbands and refuse his sexual needs. All these are types of psychological and emotional abuse.”
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Mr Che made the comments during a parliamentary debate on amendments to domestic violence legislation.
Politicians and activist groups have expressed hopes that the new bill will offer more protection for victims of domestic abuse.
It also remains legal in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, for Muslim men to have as many as four wives as long as they obtain permission from a Sharia court.
Mr Che touched on this in a speech to parliament, saying that denying a Muslim man the chance to marry a second wife also amounted to “abuse”.
‘It does not work that way’
Mr Che’s stand drew widespread outrage, including condemnation from women’s rights activist Marina Mahathir who is also the daughter of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed.
“This is an old notion, that when you marry a women you own her body. It does not work that way,” she told the AFP news agency.
“Women have a right to say no to sex. It is ridiculous to say men are abused if women say no.”
Ms Marina also shared the news on Facebook, saying: “And yet we let men rule countries?”
The MP’s words follow a similar controversy in April after another ruling party politician was criticised for saying it was okay for rapists to marry their victims.
Online anger erupted, following the parliamentary session on Wednesday.
Many Facebook users criticised the “primal mentality” of Mr Che.
“Social illness and corruption are problems to tackle first. Lawmakers can be sex therapists later,” said Sharkawi Lu from Labuan island. “What a joke Malaysia has become.”
“Women are not sexual tools,” said Gopenatan Madaven. “You need to respect and share their feelings. And taking four wives is a sick craze. Can women do that?”
Others like Rachel Khoo questioned the credibility of the government: “Why are we paying such uncivilised people to represent our country anyway?”