The rise in domestic violence is a phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the erosion of trust in enforcement agencies, and this must stop, assert Melissa Mohd Akhir and Hasanah A Akhir.
Last week, several newspapers reported that a woman was beaten to death by her husband in Kuala Lumpur. It was also reported that there were new and old bruises on the victim’s body. During her 10 years of marriage, she had reportedly lodged at least 10 police reports on the violence.
In January, another newspaper reported that a woman was forced to marry her rapist when she was 16. She had to endure violence over the past 12 years and has made 20 police reports. When she was filing for a divorce, her husband slashed her right cheek and chopped off her right thumb! He threatened her with “your life for a divorce”.
Looking at these two tragic cases and the large number of police reports lodged by these two women, there was clearly no effective action taken against the abusers; one woman lost her life while the other was seriously injured and lives in fear for her life.
The above are just two examples for the year 2013. According to the Royal Malaysian Police, from 2007 up to February 2012, a total of 18124 domestic violence cases were reported. In 2012, cases of domestic violence referred from Penang Hospital to the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang increased by as much as 300 per cent over 2011. The extreme spike in the number of cases is extremely worrying.
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Domestic violence is a serious crime that requires immediate and urgent attention. It affects the lives of many abused women and their children. This crime has long term psychological and social impact on these families and society at large.
The Domestic Violence Act was legislated in 1994 to recognise that violence in a home is not a family matter but a societal concern. The primary aim of the Act is to protect women and other family members who have been abused, through the enforcement of protection orders or prosecution in court. Unfortunately, after 19 years of the law being in force, the reality is that the quality of its enforcement is in question.
WCC often receives complaints from victims of violence saying that their reports of abuse have been ignored by certain enforcement officers. Worse, some victims have instead been accused of causing the violence despite the fact that investigations had yet to be initiated. This results in the women heading back home, frustrated, and continuing to suffer in pain and giving up on the case.
If this situation continues, society will lose faith in enforcement agencies and feel hopeless in obtaining the required protection. It is a sad state in our country if the Act remains as empty promises and violence reigns supreme.
The victim’s right to protection must be prioritised as domestic violence is a crime and must not be taken lightly by enforcement officers. Abused women must be protected through effective implementation of the law by enforcement agencies.
WCC strongly urges that all reports of violence be investigated efficiently and effectively by well-trained and empathetic enforcement officers. Only then can violence against women be tackled seriously.
Melissa Mohd Akhir and Hasanah A Akhir are attached to the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang. WCC is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation that aims at the elimination of violence against women and children and the promotion of women’s equality.