Does anyone know how prevalent is domestic violence? According to Kuala Lumpur Hospital, it has recorded up to 150 domestic violence cases monthly in 2016. More often than not, the victims suffered in silence, not knowing what course of action to take.
In Malaysia, the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (“the Act”) was passed in Parliament in order to fulfill the government’s commitment under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) General Recommendation No. 19. The Act came into force on 01.06.1996.
What constitutes domestic violence?
Usually, victims tend to perceive physical injuries as the only valid cause to seek recourse. Nonetheless, domestic violence includes psychological abuse, sexual abuse and commission of other acts as clearly stipulated under section 2 of the Act as follows:
(a) placing the victim in fear of physical injury;
(b) physical injury;
(c) engaging in acts, including sexual acts (e.g.: oral and anal sex) from which the victim has a right to abstain;
(d) confining or detaining against the victim’s will;
(e) causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance to the victim;
(f) psychological abuse including emotional injury;
(g) causing the victim to suffer delusions by using intoxicating substances without the victim’s consent or where the consent was unlawfully obtained; or
(h) causing a child to suffer delusions by using intoxicating substances.
Who is protected under the Act?
Anyone who has been abused by his/her spouse, former spouse and any other family members are entitled to protection under the Act. However, the Act does not cover violence committed by boyfriends / girlfriends. Despite that, he/she may lodge a police report for assault.
What can the victim do?
The Act recognises the fact that domestic violence is not a private matter. It’s a crime under the Penal Code. Individuals, the government and non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) must work together in a systematic partnership to ensure that no woman and child in need of justice and protection falls though the cracks in the incidents of domestic violence.
In the event that you are being abused, you may consider taking the following actions:
(a) Get Medical Help
- Seek medical assistance at the nearest clinic / hospital if you sustained physical injuries;
(b) Lodge a Police Report
- Lodge a police report against the abuser. State clearly the date, time and venue of the incident of domestic violence, how did it happen and what is the effect on you following the incident (e.g.: bruises, psychological trauma etc.);
- Should you fear for the safety of yourself and your children, you can inform the Investigation Officer (“IO”) that you intend to obtain an Interim Protection Order (“IPO”). The IO will then give you a referral letter. Take this letter to the Welfare Department and the Social Welfare Officer will assist you to apply the IPO at the Magistrates’ Court;
(c) Apply for an Interim Protection Order (“IPO”) / Protection Order (“PO”)
Interim Protection Order
- An IPO is a court order to prevent the abusive spouse from committing further violence against you, your children and/or other family members, pending investigation of commission of domestic violence.
- The IPO can provide that the abuser cannot incite another person to commit domestic violence against you. Moreover, the court may include power of arrest in the IPO, which entitles the police to arrest the abuser without warrant, if the court is satisfied that the abuser will continue to commit domestic violence.
- The IPO is merely temporary and it ceases to have effect upon the completion of the police investigations, or when the abuser is charged in court for his acts of domestic violence.
- You may apply for a PO during criminal proceedings, when the abuser is charged in court for domestic violence. The PO provides a longer period of protection as it may last for 12 months, with an extension of another 12 months.
- Similarly, the PO serves to restrain the abuser from continuing and also from inciting others to commit domestic violence against you, your children and/or other family members.
- The court may include the following orders in the PO, if it’s necessary to protect and secure the safety of yourself and your children:
(a) by granting exclusive occupation of the house or any part of it to you and your children;
(b) by prohibiting the abuser from going near you and your children within a certain distance, be it at home, at your work place or at school;
(c) by requiring the abuser to allow you and your children to collect your personal belongings in the house, accompanied by enforcement officers;
(d) by limiting the abuser’s communication with you and your children;
(e) by requiring the abuser to allow you to continue to use the vehicles;
(f) any other directions as the court may deem necessary to make sure the PO is effective.
(d) Seek Help from NGOs
Please keep calm and be optimistic if you are at lost when confronting with domestic violence by your loved one.
You may contact Women’s Aid Organisation (“WAO”) and Women’s Centre for Change (“WCC”) for assistance. The social workers can accompany you to any police station, hospital and the Welfare Department. Furthermore, WAO and WCC can provide temporary shelter so that you and your children can stay away from the violent environment.
Can the victim get monetary compensation?
There have been instances where the court granted compensation to the domestic violence victims, whether they suffered physical injuries, psychological abuse, damage to property and/or financial loss. This remedy is explicitly provided under section 10 of the Act.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, or if you know anyone who suffered violence from their spouse, please do not hesitate to contact me for legal advice and any reasonable course of action.
Originally published at arinaong.wordpress.com on 8 January, 2017.