Public financial assistance should be considered within the framework of Malaysian society, with its highly developed sense of family and clan responsibility. The government has generally encouraged volunteer social welfare activities and has subsidized programs of private groups. The Department of Social Welfare, under the Ministry of Welfare Services, administers and coordinates social assistance programs. The government's program of public assistance takes the form of cash, commodities, and institutional care. Children's services provide case-work services and administer children's homes. A probation service provides care and assistance for juvenile delinquents and dependents, and a handicapped persons' service aids the deaf, mute, and blind. In addition, care is provided for the aged and chronically ill.
A provident fund has provided lump-sum benefits for old age, disability, and death. Pensions are funded by 11% contributions of earnings by workers, and 12% of payroll by employers. The retirement age is 55. Work injury insurance and disability pensions to low-income workers is available, with a special system for public employees.
The government has taken active measures to improve the rights and standing of women. The Islamic Family Law was revised to strengthen the inheritance rights of Muslim women and to increase their access to divorce. The government passed a domestic violence bill that allows the courts to protect victims of spousal abuse. However, this law falls short of making domestic violence a criminal act that may be tried under the existing law regarding assault and battery. Most Muslim women play subordinate roles in public and private life in spite of their growing legal rights. In family and religious matters, Muslim women are subject to Islamic law, which allows polygyny. Custom favors men in matters of inheritance. Some Malays practice a modified form of female genital mutilation. Except in teaching and nursing, women are underrepresented in professional occupations.
Human rights abuses include arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and other types of prisoner abuse. Caning is still used for some crimes.