Singapore — The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) took to social media to call out a press statement released by the People’s Action Party (PAP) where the party used an analogy involving spousal abuse to denounce Dr Chee Soon Juan.
The statement released by PAP that AWARE is referring to is as follows:
“A simple analogy will explain Dr Chee’s mendacity. Imagine this. Dr Chee claims you said you want to beat up your spouse. You deny it, and show proof that you neither said this nor have beaten your spouse. Instead of apologising, Dr Chee says: “Victory! I extracted a promise from you that you will never beat your spouse.”
In a Facebook post (July 4), AWARE noted, “Many members of the public have reached out to us with their concerns about this PAP press release about Chee Soon Juan, which compares a statement of Chee’s to an allegation that someone had beaten up their spouse.”
“This analogy is regrettable. It is insensitive to apply imagery of spousal violence to situations that have nothing to do with it.”
Dr Chee Soon Juan is the head opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and has been involved in back-and-forth claims over a 10 million population figure project for Singapore since SDP brought it up publicly in a live political debate on 1 July. SDP’s refusal to release an apology led to PAP issuing a statement and hence using the analogy as stated above to explain Dr Chee’s falsehoods.
In response to this, despite noting that AWARE does not engage in “partisan politics”, the association is concerned that such a statement made “in the political domain” could have unintentional consequences by reinforcing the myth that false allegations of abuse are common. They also noted that this would deter victims from coming forward when domestic violence is already under-reported.
“Domestic violence is a serious and devastating issue for many in Singapore, and millions more around the world. It is not something to be invoked lightly — especially not during the Covid-19 pandemic, when domestic violence has seen a sharp increase.”
They call upon all political candidates to “be mindful and responsible in their communications throughout this election”.
A sharp increase of 137% in family violence in May 2020
AWARE released a statement on 25 June showing that they received a total of 752 calls to its Helplines in May 2020. This is regarded as a “new all-time call record” for the organisation ever since they started in 1991.
Family violence continues to be the primary reason for its calls with 180 calls pertaining to it in May 2020, an increase of 137% compared to May 2019.
Family violence is defined by AWARE as, “violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour that occurs in current or former family, domestic or intimate relationships. It encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, economic control, social isolation and any other behaviour that may cause a person to live in fear.”
Due to the implementation of the circuit breaker, “social-distancing measures designed to curb a virus ironically enclose many women in potentially life-threatening circumstances.”
They also stated that families will need “more support during this time” and that AWARE has taken steps to expand its service capacity during the Covid-19 outbreak through growing staff strength and increasing the number of phone lines.
Many netizens expressed their “disappointment” over PAP’s use of the analogy, some saying that it is “disgraceful” and “distasteful”.
One said that “I have family and friends who live amidst fear and anguish as they deal with domestic violence. Political fray should not involve such unnecessary and insensitive use of analogies especially when it has nothing to do with the context of the issues in contention.”
**If you are or someone you know is experiencing family violence and need someone to talk to, call the AWARE Helpline at 1800 777 5555.