Press statement, 4 April 2017
We support the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday. Moving forward, we must ensure enforcement is effective and further improve the law.
The amendments to the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (DVA) are positive. The amendments will:
1. Prevent gaps in protection. An interim protection order (IPO) protects survivors during police investigation, while a protection order (PO) protects survivors during criminal court proceedings. The amendments specify when an IPO ends, and when a PO begins, so survivors won’t be left without protection between police investigations and court proceeding.
2. Strengthen the IPO to prevent further abuse. With the amendments, an IPO can include additional safeguards, like prohibiting an abuser from coming near a survivor – so police can intervene before further violence happens.
3. Expand the definition of domestic violence. The expanded definition will protect against: misappropriating property, which causes distress; threatening, which causes distress or fear for safety; or communicating (including electronically) with the survivor to insult modesty.
4. Improve rehabilitation provisions. A court can no longer order a survivor to attend reconciliatory counselling with the abuser, which puts the survivor in danger. Instead, the abuser can be ordered to complete a rehabilitation programme.
5. Recognise survivor’s right to exclusive occupancy. If a court grants a survivor occupancy of a shared residence, it must grant the survivor exclusive occupancy – not just a specified part of the residence.
6. Keep survivors better informed. The police officer must keep survivors informed on the status of investigation, status of IPO and PO, and important court dates.
7. Create the Emergency Protection Order (EPO). The EPO helps survivors get protection faster – EPOs are issued by social welfare officers who are easily accessible (IPOs are issued by magistrates). Survivors won’t have to make a police report to get an EPO. The EPO is valid for seven days, and protects against physical injury and fear of physical injury.
The bill is a result of collaboration between various stakeholders. JAG worked with the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, and the Attorney General’s Chambers on these amendments since end-2013. Other stakeholders contributed, including PDRM, JAKIM, BHEUU, MCMC, Bar Council Malaysia, and the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO).
Most importantly, we acknowledge the courageous survivors who have shared their experiences with us. These experiences drove and informed our policy recommendations.
While we applaud this bill, we must continue to improve the DVA. Moving forward, we must:
● Criminalise stalking in the Penal Code and recognise stalking in the DVA.
● Recognise abuse between unmarried intimate partners.
● Extend the maximum duration of POs, to protect survivors when the court proceedings are over.
● Enable survivors to get long term protection without needing to press criminal charges against the abuser.
Changing the law is just the first step. For the law to improve lives, enforcement agencies – particularly PDRM, One Stop Crisis Centres (OSCC) in public hospitals, the Welfare Department (JKM), the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the court system – must receive sufficient resources, training, and supervision to implement the law.
The immediate next step is to update enforcement agencies’ shared guidelines, the Garis Panduan Pengendalian Kes Keganasan Rumah Tangga.
If implemented effectively, this new bill can transform and save the lives of thousands of domestic violence survivors each year.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG)
1. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
2. Women Centre for Change (WCC Penang)
3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
4. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
5. Justice for Sisters
6. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
7. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
8. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
9. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
10. Sarawak Women for Women Society
11. Sisters in Islam