Com­ing

A re­cent roundtable brought rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the gov­ern­ment, the po­lice and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOs) to­gether to dis­cuss in­te­grated strate­gies in tack­ling do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - WOMAN - By S. INDRAMALAR star2@thes­tar.com.my

DO­MES­TIC vi­o­lence is of­ten per­ceived as a pri­vate fam­ily mat­ter that should be dealt within the con­fines of one’s home.

This, how­ever, could not be fur­ther from the truth.

Fam­ily vi­o­lence is a com­plex, multi-faceted so­cial prob­lem that af­fects so­ci­ety’s frame­work. If fam­i­lies are the foun­da­tion of so­ci­ety, then do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is a threat to its sta­bil­ity and needs to be ad­dressed.

In Malaysia, there are many agen­cies in­volved in deal­ing with do­mes­tic abuse: wel­fare work­ers in both the gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­men­tal sec­tors work to pro­tect and coun­sel vic­tims of abuse, po­lice and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers are charged with pro­tect­ing vic­tims and ap­pre­hend­ing and pros­e­cut­ing per­pe­tra­tors of abuse while doc­tors and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als lend med­i­cal ex­per­tise in treat­ing the phys­i­cal, emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal wounds of both the vic­tim and per­pe­tra­tor.

The Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act (1994) has pro­vided some amount of pro­tec­tion for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence who are largely women and chil­dren.

But there have been struc­tural weak­nesses in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Act which the Joint Ac­tion Group for Gen­der Equal­ity’s (JAG) com­mit­tee has out­lined in their pe­ri­od­i­cal re­ports which are based on their on-the­ground work with vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

While there have been suc­cess­ful ini­tia­tives to help vic­tims of vi­o­lence and pros­e­cute abusers, th­ese have largely been car­ried out in iso­la­tion. Col­lab­o­ra­tive projects have been largely piece­meal and short term.

To ad­dress this gap, JAG re­cently or­gan­ised a multi-stake­holder roundtable on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to bring to­gether the var­i­ous agen­cies in­volved to es­tab­lish an in­te­grated re­sponse to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Malaysia. The roundtable was at­tended by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from JAG, the Women, Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Min­istry and the po­lice.

JAG com­prises eight NGOs, namely Women’s Aid Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Sis­ters in Is­lam, the All Women’s Ac­tion So­ci­ety, Per­sat­uan Kesedaran Ko­mu­niti Se­lan­gor (Em­power), Women’s Cen­tre for Change, Pe­nang (WCC), Perak Women for Women So­ci­ety, Sabah Women’s Ac­tion Re­source Group and Per­sat­uan Sa­ha­bat Wanita Malaysia.

The Sin­ga­pore ex­pe­ri­ence

At the roundtable, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Min­istry of So­cial and Fam­ily De­vel­op­ment of Sin­ga­pore pre­sented the coun­try’s in­ter-agency ap­proach in tack­ling fam­ily vi­o­lence which has yielded pos­i­tive re­sults.

Heather Ong, who is the as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Fam­ily, Child Pro­tec­tion and Wel­fare branch of the min­istry shared how a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach be­tween the min­istry (the lead agency co­or­di­nat­ing and fund­ing pro­grammes against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence), the po­lice, health­care pro­fes­sion­als and so­cial ser­vice providers has re­sulted in a sys­tem that works to the ben­e­fit of not only the vic­tims of abuse but also their fam­i­lies and so­ci­ety at large.

“Why do we need a col­lab­o­ra­tive prac­tice? Fam­ily vi­o­lence cases are very com­plex. We

End­ing the cy­cle: do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is not a pri­vate mat­ter but an is­sue that con­cerns ev­ery­one.

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