NGOs: Be more responsive when victims file police reports

PETALING JAYA: There are enough laws to deal with domestic violence but authorities should be more responsive when victims file police reports, say women’s non-governmental organisations.

Association of Women Lawyers committee member Meera Samanther said many domestic violence victims tend to live in fear even after filing reports and getting an interim protection order (IPO).

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She said the authorities should immediately act when there is a breach of the IPO.

“The IPO does serve as a form of protection (against threats and harassment from violent spouses) but it will only work if the public knows that authorities will act on it when the IPO is violated.

“A divorce process can be very emotive, and people experience very strong emotions of anger and resentment. That may make someone who has a violent disposition to lash out,” Meera added.

She also said the police need more on the ground training, especially the front desk officers who attend to victims lodging reports.

The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), citing Home Ministry statistics, showed that between 2019 and 2021, there were 27 murder cases involving married couples.

“The lived realities of women including reports made must be taken seriously and must include an approach to addressing the issue, encompassing preventive measures, enhanced victim support services, and robust legal enforcement,” said WAO advocacy officer Dhanya Shekhar.

She said the escalation of violence during a divorce process remains a concerning issue due to underlying factors such as power imbalance and cultural acceptance of violence against women.

“In many cases of domestic violence, there is a significant power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim. This power dynamic can become more pronounced during the divorce process, as the abuser may feel a loss of control over the survivor’s life and attempt to exert dominance through violence.

“Even after reports have been made, the abuser may continue to use intimidation tactics to maintain control. Despite efforts to combat gender-based violence, cultural norms and attitudes towards violence can still perpetuate the cycle of abuse,” said Dhanya.

She said there tends to be a cultural acceptance of violence against women among locals.

“This acceptance can encourage perpetrators to escalate violence during the divorce process, as they may believe their actions are justified or go unchallenged by society.

“A WAO 2021 research survey – Malaysian Public Attitudes and Perceptions Towards Violence Against Women – indicates that about 25.4% have supportive attitudes towards violence against women, excusing the perpetrator and holding the women responsible for violence.

“The study found that alarmingly, only 43.4% of people support women’s report for violence,” she said.

“While laws are in place to protect both men and women from domestic violence, there is often a disparity in how these laws are implemented and perceived.

“General threatening behaviours, particularly those exhibited by men, may be more readily accepted or downplayed within certain societal contexts.

“This normalisation of threatening behaviours can contribute to the escalation of violence during divorce proceedings, as the abuser may feel empowered to act with impunity,” said Dhanya.

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