Apathy to domestic violence can be fatal - WCC Penang, 26 May 2016
THE Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang has urged all members of enforcement agencies handling domestic violence cases to have a comprehensive and holistic understanding of domestic violence, as well as the effect of domestic violence on victims.
WCC senior advocacy officer Melissa Mohd Akhir said members, including police and social welfare officers, should understand domestic violence laws, and the rights ofvictims to protection under the law, as well as undergo training to grasp and appreciate their roles in preventing domestic violence as laid out under the law and the Guidelines to Handling Domestic Violence Cases.
In reference to a High Court decision on Tuesday, which found former loan shark-turned-hawker Chiam Nguang Huat guilty of murdering his wife Lai Siew Fong in 2013, Melissa said the victim had made numerous police reports on the violence she had faced at the hands of her husband since September 2012.
“These reports made by her and her family members did not receive the appropriate attention, nor were the proper actions taken.
“The failure of our enforcement agencies to intervene despite repeated reports of violence contributed to the further repetition and escalation of the violence, which ultimately resulted in Lai’s horrific murder.
“WCC journeyed initially with the victim and later with her family throughout the police investigation and trial process,” she said in astatement on Tuesday.
Melissa said despite the protections offered to domestic violence victims under the DVA (Domestic Violence Act) 1994 and the recently launched Guidelines to Handling Domestic Violence Cases by the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, domestic violencevictims often faced numerous difficulties in getting the help and protection they needed.
“From our experience, many officers in enforcement agencies do not understand domestic violence, and do not know their duties as ascribed by the law or how to carry out those duties effectively.
“Often, victims find theircomplaints not taken seriously by the very agencies whom they seek help from.
“While domestic violence has been legislated against, certain forms of it are still not recognised by enforcement officers as a crime,” she said.
Melissa added that some victims were not informed about their rights, including access to protection orders while many officers in enforcement agencies “seem unaware” of their responsibilities, resulting in multiple instances where victims were not helped to obtain a protection order, or where the protection order was not delivered to the suspect immediately.
Furthermore, she added, poorcommunication between the agencies could result in lack of protection of the victim, rendering them vulnerable to further and more severe abuse from the perpetrator.
“It has taken three years for Lai’s case to come to a conclusion.
“The case has had a profound and harrowing effect on her family, especially her children who witnessed the crime.
“To ensure that other women do not suffer the same fate as Lai Siew Fong, we need to act now to collectively overcome the inertia and apathy shown towards domestic violence and its victims,” she said.
On Tuesday, Chiam, 42, was sentenced to death by a High Court in George Town after he was found guilty of setting his wife on fire that resulted in her death about three years ago.
*WCC is a member organisation of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality.
**The original article can be found here.