Taking domestic violence seriously

(From left) Chong Eng with Ong, Loh, Dr Florance and Siew, showing the approved Safe Family Policy during the press conference in Komtar, George Town. — Photo: MUSTAFA AHMAD/The Star

THE Penang government is adopting the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to address domestic violence (DV) in the state.

The Safe Family Policy, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, is aimed at increasing the number of support groups available for DV victims within the community and to make victims feel safe and protected.

State women and family development, gender inclusiveness and religions other than Islam committee chairman Chong Eng said the policy looked into a comprehensive solution to the plight of DV and sexual assault victims by family members.

“Our message is clear - Violence is not okay and it cannot be tolerated.

“With the implementation of this policy, the Penang government will be able to develop a wider and more systematic support system for DV victims.

“The community sees the issue of DV as ‘not my problem’ and they are afraid to step in to render help, for fear of their own safety,” she said at a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

She said while Penang recorded 343 cases of DV last year, there were 33 such cases during the movement control order (MCO) period.

“Although there are reports that the number of DV cases had increased, there are still victims who did not come forward to report because they do not know where to seek help or fear that if they filed a report, more harm may follow when there is no one to protect them,” she said.

Chong Eng said the state exco approved the policy on July 15 and only about RM60,000 was needed for implementation of the policy via officer training workshops while existing government facilities and premises would be used for relevant programmes.

“Staff members from government agencies and others who are interested in being part of this movement will be given training on how to provide immediate assistance and how to handle cases they come across.

“The first support group includes all state government agencies, state representative service centres, religious organisations, community leaders, community-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others, especially at grassroot levels.

“Yes, while the state encourages reconciliation, counselling and rehabilitation of the perpetrators, we do not want victims to continue existing in an abusive environment and the only way is to empower victims who in turn would empower the community.

“With this, the victims and surrounding community will have the Penang government as the force and backbone to eradicate violence at home.

“We are also looking at working with hotels to provide emergency accommodation for victims of domestic abuse, should the need for more shelters arise,” said Chong Eng.

Penang Women’s Development Corporation executive director Ong Bee Leng said DV perpetrators must be made to realise that there are laws against such acts.

“We are in tandem with the state on the Safe Family Policy and will encourage the creation of a happy and liveable family unit.

“We will ensure DV victims are given all the necessary assistance if they choose to leave an abusive marriage,” Ong said.

Sneham Malaysia (a non-profit organisation to prevent suicide) founder-cum-president Datuk Dr Florance Sinniah said while women were aware of their rights in facing DV, cultural, societal and family constraints often stopped them from seeking help.

“Creation of the policy is a bold move by the state government, and its vast scope gives everyone a responsibility to ensure victims of DV are heard and their plight addressed before its too late,” she noted.

Also present were Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) in Penang president Susan Siew Pui Fun and executive director Loh Cheng Kooi.

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