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