I have a knack of being the odd one out in a crowd. As I mentioned before, I have been the only guy in a group of ladies for many occasions in my life. What you may not have known is that on other occasions, I was the only Chinese in a hall of Irish patriots, the only Chinese in a Jewish synagogue and the only non-Muslim in a closed fundamentalist Muslim community. These are stories to be told at another time but which clearly demonstrate that I have a knack of ending up as the odd one out and standing out like a sore thumb.
Well, I did it again last Friday. My assistant told me that the women’s wing of a political party were inviting people to attend a meeting to discuss common concerns. I work for an environmental and conservation organisation and so for me common concerns related to the environment. Although generally, not keen to attend political party meetings, I happened to be very near the venue of the meeting and agreed to drop in after I completed some work.
I went to the registration desk, they took my name and then ushered me personally to my seat. As I entered the hall, I suddenly became aware that there were about a hundred women seated there and as I scanned around, I could not spot another male anywhere (where were they, the cowards!). My usherer insisted on taking me almost to the front. I am sure my arrival was the focus of everyone’s attention. I sat down and my spirits plummeted further when I read the program and saw there was nothing on the agenda on the environment. In fact the order of the day was a discussion about “Violence against Women”.
As the discussion got going, I began to sense a lot of hostility in the room to the male gender and so I tried not to attract any attention while my eyes surveyed the nearest exits in case a quick get-away was needed.
In the end though, they were very civil about my presence. I also got to learn a lot and at the end I really thought that more men should indeed have been there to listen.
I was particularly shocked to learn how callous the bureaucacy treated women who had been victims of violent crimes in Malaysia. I was disappointed to learn that one-stop Rape Crisis Centres in hospitals had been axed in cost cuts. I was appalled to hear of police officers who asked rape victims if they enjoyed the experience.
Police officers were clearly in need of learning gender sensitivity. Some told victims that the way they dressed implied that they invited sexual attack. Others have actually told some rape victims that they were not pretty enough to attract any one to be interested to rape them.
Honestly, I had no idea that things were so bad. I applaud those who are trying to make a difference. In Malaysia there is even a male organisation that exists to speak out to other males against domestic violence. Malaysia just celebrated 50 years of independence but our attitude and treatment of women clearly shows that we have not matured as a society.