The controversial poster tweeted by Malaysia’s women’s affairs ministry. (Image courtesy: Twitter)
Malaysia apologised on Tuesday after telling women to speak with a cartoon cat voice and avoid nagging their husbands during coronavirus lockdown, a move that sparked a sexism row.
“We apologise if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the women development department in Malaysia’s women’s affairs ministry said in a statement.
The ministry had issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18, with a series of online posters with the hashtag translating as #WomenPreventCOVID19.
One of the campaign posters depicted a man sitting on a sofa and asked women to refrain from being “sarcastic” if they needed help with household chores.
Avoid nagging your husband, another poster said, but use humour or imitate the infantile voice of Doraemon, a blue robot cat from Japan that is hugely popular across Asia.
The ministry also urged women to dress up and wear makeup while working from home.
The advice led to a barrage of angry reactions on social media.
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
— Honey Tan (@honeyean) March 31, 2020
In one poster, Malaysia’s gender equality movement regresses five decades. Dah la illegitimate govt, incompetent pulak tu. @KPWKM
— Lee Lian Kong (@leelian_kong) March 31, 2020
No wearing makeup saves a ton lots of money which is so important for families with kids now. What’s she thinking!?
— 𝙻𝚢𝚗✨ (@lynhyhy) March 31, 2020
If this is shown to the world we will be a joke!! Malaysia boleh!
— karenjp (@KarenPeng499) March 31, 2020
After the online posters sparked a public outcry, the ministry removed them.
“(It) is extremely condescending both to women and men,” said Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at All Women’s Action Society, a Malaysian advocacy group.
Malaysia is ranked 104 out of 153 countries in the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, after scoring poorly on political empowerment and economic participation.