Telenisa: Statistics and Findings 2020 Reveals Issues
Faced by Women during the CoVid-19 Pandemic

Telenisa, a legal aid clinic under Sisters in Islam (SIS) has launched the Telenisa: Statistics & Findings 2020 book that reveals the issues women faced during the Movement Control Order (MCO) to prevent the spread of CoVid-19. The launch was broadcasted live on Sisters in Islam and Telenisa’s Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/officialSIS/ and www.facebook.com/telenisa.sis/).


Since 2003, Telenisa has helped more than 10,000 women from all backgrounds. It is the only service that offers free legal advice in Malaysia that understands the contexts and challenges faced by women in claiming their rights in the family.


The CoVid-19 pandemic has caused challenges to many, especially women as domestic violence cases increased after the MCO was implemented. Anticipating this situation, Telenisa and other NGOs that provide services and support to women made ourselves available for them as much as possible.


Previously, our service was from 9am to 5pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays. During the MCO, we extended our service from 3 days a week to 5 days a week, Mondays to Fridays. In addition, we also extended our service hours from 9am to 10pm. We also expanded from a landline to a WhatsApp number (012-812 3424) to cater for situations where it was difficult for clients to call our helpline from their homes. This may be due to the reality of not being able to get their own personal space and time to speak on very private issues without any fears or concerns of being overheard.


The Telenisa: Statistics & Findings 2020 book is our effort to showcase women’s lived realities through issues that they faced during the CoVid-19 pandemic and the MCO. In 2020, Telenisa had a total of 422 clients, a decrease from 610 clients in 2019. A number of 364 people were new clients, while 58 people were repeat clients. We had 373 clients who were women (88%), 31 clients were men (7%) and 18 (5%) clients were not identified. “Not identified” are for clients who did not reveal their gender. The significant drop in clients was likely due to the pandemic and the issue of access as earlier described.

The Telenisa statistics in 2020 showed that the number one cause of marriage breakdown is domestic violence at 23%, compared to 2019 at 15%. Clients who experienced domestic violence in 2020 had reported that they went through various types of violence or abuse during the pandemic. Reports of physical violence is tallied at 37%, psychological abuse at 31%, social abuse at 11%, financial abuse at 16%, and sexual violence at 5%.


Telenisa observed that claims for matrimonial properties have dropped over the years. Many of our clients, especially homemakers or housewives, are not aware of their rights in matrimonial property. In 2018, matrimonial property claims stood at 27%, which declined to 20% in 2019, and in 2020, matrimonial property claims plummeted to 17%. Usually, homemakers would assume they do not have any rights to stake a claim as they do not contribute monetarily to the acquisition of their matrimonial property. Feedback from our clients revealed that this false assumption was told repeatedly by their ex-husbands to discourage their wives from staking a claim on their matrimonial home.


Another reason for the breakdown of marriage was due to husbands not providing maintenance, at 18%. Regardless of the pandemic situation, when husbands don’t provide maintenance in households where the wives are either full-time homemakers or are not earning enough, these wives have no choice but to turn to employment or seek a second job. During this time of the pandemic, however, such options are limited if not non-existent.


According to the Telenisa statistics, in 2020, we observed two new causes of marriage breakdown that were not reported in previous years: financial problems and polygamy, each at 10%. With already limited resources, some families had to face the hardship of economic strain more so than others. Additionally, wives only found out during the pandemic that their husbands had taken on another wife without their consent and knowledge.


In 2020, Telenisa received enquiries on child custody cases at 52%, a massive leap from the 2% in 2019. This is followed by enquiries on visitation rights at 39%, taking a dive from 88% in 2019, and child abduction at 9%, a slight drop from 10% in 2019. There is a major shift regarding parents’ concerns on child custody during the pandemic when compared to 2019. This is due to the ban on interstate travel which restricted the parent who holds visitation rights to arrange said visitations. The pandemic has caused different impacts among women and men. Women are more exposed to harm such as physical, emotional and psychological violence from conflicts and pressure.


Taking into account these issues, SIS advocates for tougher sanctions on fathers who do not perform their responsibilities in supporting their children. SIS has consistently advocated for the development of a Federal Child Maintenance Agency to quantify, collect and pay out child maintenance payments on behalf of separated and divorced parents. The aim is to get more money to more children, by making it an automatic and seamless payment to the child or custodian of the child, and without having to apply to court for an enforcement order every time the father fails to pay.


SIS advocates to amend our Islamic Family Law to make it compulsory upon every application for polygamy in court for the husband to declare all of his assets and liability for the court and to consider his financial ability before entering into another marriage. Furthermore, there should be a court order to ensure that husbands provide maintenance for the wellbeing of the wives and their children.

Telenisa, a legal aid clinic under Sisters in Islam (SIS) has launched the Telenisa: Statistics & Findings 2020 book that reveals the issues women faced during the Movement Control Order (MCO) to prevent the spread of CoVid-19. The launch was broadcasted live on Sisters in Islam and Telenisa’s Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/officialSIS/ and www.facebook.com/telenisa.sis/).

Since 2003, Telenisa has helped more than 10,000 women from all backgrounds. It is the only service that offers free legal advice in Malaysia that understands the contexts and challenges faced by women in claiming their rights in the family.

The CoVid-19 pandemic has caused challenges to many, especially women as domestic violence cases increased after the MCO was implemented. Anticipating this situation, Telenisa and other NGOs that provide services and support to women made ourselves available for them as much as possible.

Previously, our service was from 9am to 5pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays. During the MCO, we extended our service from 3 days a week to 5 days a week, Mondays to Fridays. In addition, we also extended our service hours from 9am to 10pm. We also expanded from a landline to a WhatsApp number (012-812 3424) to cater for situations where it was difficult for clients to call our helpline from their homes. This may be due to the reality of not being able to get their own personal space and time to speak on very private issues without any fears or concerns of being overheard.

The Telenisa: Statistics & Findings 2020 book is our effort to showcase women’s lived realities through issues that they faced during the CoVid-19 pandemic and the MCO. In 2020, Telenisa had a total of 422 clients, a decrease from 610 clients in 2019. A number of 364 people were new clients, while 58 people were repeat clients. We had 373 clients who were women (88%), 31 clients were men (7%) and 18 (5%) clients were not identified. “Not identified” are for clients who did not reveal their gender. The significant drop in clients was likely due to the pandemic and the issue of access as earlier described.

The Telenisa statistics in 2020 showed that the number one cause of marriage breakdown is domestic violence at 23%, compared to 2019 at 15%. Clients who experienced domestic violence in 2020 had reported that they went through various types of violence or abuse during the pandemic. Reports of physical violence is tallied at 37%, psychological abuse at 31%, social abuse at 11%, financial abuse at 16%, and sexual violence at 5%.

Telenisa observed that claims for matrimonial properties have dropped over the years. Many of our clients, especially homemakers or housewives, are not aware of their rights in matrimonial property. In 2018, matrimonial property claims stood at 27%, which declined to 20% in 2019, and in 2020, matrimonial property claims plummeted to 17%. Usually, homemakers would assume they do not have any rights to stake a claim as they do not contribute monetarily to the acquisition of their matrimonial property. Feedback from our clients revealed that this false assumption was told repeatedly by their ex-husbands to discourage their wives from staking a claim on their matrimonial home.

Another reason for the breakdown of marriage was due to husbands not providing maintenance, at 18%. Regardless of the pandemic situation, when husbands don’t provide maintenance in households where the wives are either full-time homemakers or are not earning enough, these wives have no choice but to turn to employment or seek a second job. During this time of the pandemic, however, such options are limited if not non-existent.

According to the Telenisa statistics, in 2020, we observed two new causes of marriage breakdown that were not reported in previous years: financial problems and polygamy, each at 10%. With already limited resources, some families had to face the hardship of economic strain more so than others. Additionally, wives only found out during the pandemic that their husbands had taken on another wife without their consent and knowledge.

In 2020, Telenisa received enquiries on child custody cases at 52%, a massive leap from the 2% in 2019. This is followed by enquiries on visitation rights at 39%, taking a dive from 88% in 2019, and child abduction at 9%, a slight drop from 10% in 2019. There is a major shift regarding parents’ concerns on child custody during the pandemic when compared to 2019. This is due to the ban on interstate travel which restricted the parent who holds visitation rights to arrange said visitations.

The pandemic has caused different impacts among women and men. Women are more exposed to harm such as physical, emotional and psychological violence from conflicts and pressure. Taking into account these issues, SIS advocates for tougher sanctions on fathers who do not perform their responsibilities in supporting their children. SIS has consistently advocated for the development of a Federal Child Maintenance Agency to quantify, collect and pay out child maintenance payments on behalf of separated and divorced parents. The aim is to get more money to more children, by making it an automatic and seamless payment to the child or custodian of the child, and without having to apply to court for an enforcement order every time the father fails to pay.

SIS advocates to amend our Islamic Family Law to make it compulsory upon every application for polygamy in court for the husband to declare all of his assets and liability for the court and to consider his financial ability before entering into another marriage. Furthermore, there should be a court order to ensure that husbands provide maintenance for the wellbeing of the wives and their children.


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