BETTER PROTECTION FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
It will no longer only be about physical and emotional abuse
ON April 4, the Dewan Rakyat heard the first reading of the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2017, the latest series in the government’s legal reform agenda.
According to Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) spokesman, Kelvin Ang, there were 10,282 reported domestic violence cases from January 2014 to January last year, involving 2,651 male victims and 7,631 females.
This confirms a new dimension of the problem — that male victims account for a substantial number of the victims of domestic violence.
The term “domestic violence” is generally described as a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship, committed by one party to gain or maintain control over another.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological action (or threats of action) that impact another person.
It can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender, and can affect people of all backgrounds and education levels.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim was reported as saying that the new amendment would provide more protection to abuse victims regardless of gender.
She had said that 26 per cent out of the 5,100 domestic violence victims in 2015 were husbands.
“Husbands are being abused, too, not just the wives. This is why we are amending the act,” she had said.
Acknowledging that it was “high time” to revamp the 1994 law, Rohani had said according to police sources, 15,617 domestic violence cases were reported between 2014 and last year.
The new law has enlarged the definition of “domestic violence” in Section 2 of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (the principal act) by inserting three new paragraphs, resulting in the term “domestic violence” to include the following circumstances:
DISHONESTLY misappropriating the victim’s property, which causes the victim to suffer distress due to financial loss;
THREATENING the victim with intent to cause the victim to fear for his safety or the safety of his property, to fear for the safety of a third person, or to suffer distress; and,
COMMUNICATING with the victim, or communicating about the victim to a third person, with intent to insult the modesty of the victim through any means, electronic or otherwise.
In short, domestic violence is no longer about physical and/or emotional abuse.
Threatening to expose a nude photo of the victim in the social media is also domestic violence.
An important feature in the new law is the Emergency Protection Order (EPO) introduced by the newly inserted Part 1A, containing six new provisions namely sections 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E and 3F.
The existing Section 13 in the principal act has been replaced by a new Section 13 setting out when a protection order may be sought, and this is further strengthened by another new section 13A stating who can apply or seek a protection order.
Under the new section 3A, an authorised social welfare officer is now empowered to issue an EPO for the victims of domestic violence.
An application for the EPO can be made at any time whether or not an interim protection order (IPO) or a protection order (PO) has been issued or an application for such an order is still pending.
The EPO is valid for seven days only.
The new section 3B provides for the service of an EPO on the person against whom the order is made.
If personal service cannot be effected, section 3C provides for substituted service.
Another important feature in the new law is contained in the amended section 6 of the principal act.
This amended provision now empowers the court (if satisfied that it is necessary to do so for the protection and personal safety of the victim, child or incapacitated adult) to grant the right of exclusive occupation of the whole shared residence in a protection order to a protected person.
Under the new amendment, the court is no longer allowed to grant the right of exclusive occupation of only a specified part of the shared residence to a protected person.
The grant of the right of exclusive occupation of the whole shared residence to a protected person is to ensure the safety of the protected person.
The EPO therefore acts as an immediate temporary protection for victims from their abusers, without them having to lodge a police report or go to court, Rohani said.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological action (or threats of action) that impact another person. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender, and can affect people of all backgrounds and education levels.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim says according to police sources, 15,617 domestic violence cases were reported between 2014 and last year.