In an online poster, now removed, Malaysia's Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development advised women working at home to wear makeup and office clothes so as not to offend their husbands.
Malaysia has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with more than 2,900 and counting. This week Malaysia's government also had a serious public relations issue after an ill-conceived plan went online.
Malaysia's Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development issued a series of online posters on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19. It advised the nation's women to help with the country's partial lock down by not nagging their husbands.
The ministry also advised women to refrain from being "sarcastic" if they asked for help with household chores. And it urged women working from home to dress up and wear makeup.
"(It) is extremely condescending both to women and men," Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at the advocacy group All Women's Action Society told Reuters. "These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy."
The posters drew swift ridicule online.
“How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” Yin Shao Loong commented.
After this torrent of abuse, the ministry abruptly relented late Tuesday and abandoned its campaign. It said its suggestions were simply aimed at "maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home."
The ministry acknowledged the advice could have offended some people and promised to "remain cautious in the future."
Women's groups around the world have warned the lock downs could result in a rise in domestic violence, and some governments are reaching out to women in need. The latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap index puts Malaysia at 104 out of 153 countries when it comes to women's political empowerment and economic participation.